The ACT Government has cut subsidies for Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs in areas such as early childhood education, digital media and community services.
The peak independent tertiary education body says the cuts, up to 50 per cent in some areas, will lead to a skills shortage and affect the long-term viability of the VET sector.
“In an environment in which many employers across the Territory are struggling to find skilled workers, it is stunning that the ACT Government has made such significant reductions to the support provided to students looking to vocational education and training to gain new skills,” Troy Williams, CEO of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) said.
“These changes came as a surprise to quality vocational education and training providers across the Territory. There had been no consultation on the changes, with them being announced one day [14 January] and coming into force the very next day [15 January].”
However, an ACT Government spokesperson told Region Media that current students would not be affected and that the decrease in funding was a reflection of increased demand in the sector.
“Demand for training has grown and enrolments under the User Choice and Skilled Capital programs has grown significantly. As a result, subsidies have reduced to reflect increases in demand and to ensure we can support all sectors, particularly for skills required in the ACT,” the spokesperson said.
“Dynamic pricing and changes to the scope of funded qualifications are a feature of all state and territory government VET funding. We will continue to review arrangements and make adjustments to accommodate changing demand and different priorities for skills and training.
“These changes reflect the current needs of the ACT’s employment sector, with prioritisation for new workers and a reduction in support for many government-related business qualifications.
“Pricing for existing Australian Apprentices will remain at the subsidy level applied at the time of commencement. These changes will not impact current students.”
More than $90 million has been invested by the ACT and the Australian Government in the VET sector in 2019-20, an ACT government spokesperson said.
“The ACT Government provides close to $17 million annually in subsidies for training under the Australian Apprenticeships (User Choice) and Skilled Capital programs.
“The ACT Government has been consulting with the Canberra Institute of Technology on the impact of these changes, and the organisation has committed to work on minimising the impact of these changes on students and small businesses that cover the costs of employee’s training.
“Consultation occurs every year to determine the ACT Skills Needs List, including with Registered Training Organisations and industry groups. We are continuing to consult with the sector on these changes.”