The Baird government’s attempts to denigrate TAFE backfired spectacularly last month when a report commissioned by TAFE Minister John Barilaro lauded a private VET provider which just the previous week was shown to be a scandal-ridden entity being investigated by federal police and the ACCC.
The provider, Australian Careers Network (ACN), was raided by more than 20 police officers in an operation linked to concerns over fraud linked to the VET Fee-Help scheme. There are allegations that people with significant intellectual difficulties and others not readily capable of completing courses had been signed up for courses for which they, and taxpayers, were liable for thousands of dollars of debt for no return, with the provider pocketing the proceeds.
In August 2015 the federal Education Department stopped funding ACN, and the company claimed this put 15,000 students at risk of not being able to complete courses and that 500 jobs had been jeopardised.
The report by Boston Consulting commissioned by Mr Barilaro had commended ACN’s “efficiency” in business and its ability to operate with smaller overheads than TAFE.
These business “efficiencies” have, however, come from some unscrupulous student recruitment as well as putting on online courses in subjects where TAFE offers crucial face-to-face teaching as well as technological resources.
— Dinoo Kelleghan