AMEP contracts censured

Rob Long
TAFE Organiser

TAFE students are still concerned about the Federal Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) contract being transferred to private training organisations.

In Canberra on 31 May, members of the Senate Budget Estimates Committee questioned the federal government’s decision to subcontract the AMEP course delivery to MAX Solutions in the Hunter and Southern NSW regions.

Labor Senator Doug Cameron asked Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Department of Education and Training General Manager Brendan Morling why Navitas, the contracted company for AMEP students in the Hunter, Upper Hunter, Illawarra, South Coast, and Monaro and up to Southern Highlands regions had subcontracted work to MAX Solutions, which had been declared non-compliant by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

Mr Morling could not answer Senator Cameron’s request and took the question on notice. See Senator Cameron questioning Mr Morling here.

In Newcastle, 25 students met with local federal MP Sharon Claydon (Labor) and Federation members on 5 June to express their concerns about the new AMEP contract arrangements.

“TAFE has a very good reputation and is recognised by employers,” student Keila Ward later told the Newcastle Herald.

“My concern is will we not have access to libraries and computers, for example, like we do at TAFE,” said Ms Ward, a Bolivian national who has lived in the Hunter for four years.

Ms Claydon commented on Facebook, “Hearing first-hand from students who are worried about the Turnbull government’s decision to turn its back on decades of skills, experience and expertise at Hunter TAFE and award the AMEP, SEE contracts to a private provider. They told me how important it was to have an onsite creche, a library, counselling services and to be immersed in campus life ...”

In the southern region, Navitas has subcontracted to MAX solutions and in the Nowra region subcontracted again to another training company.

MAX Solutions states delivery sites in the south region have been reduced to the following: Wollongong, Shellharbour, Batemans Bay and Bega, including possible sites at Cooma and Young dependent on student demand.

In the Eurobodalla area, where TAFE used to deliver these courses through colleges at Moruya, Narooma, and Batemans Bay, the courses are now held only at Batemans Bay.

Students have told Federation how difficult it will be for Moruya students to go to the Bay when there is next to nothing in public transport. Narooma students would have to get to Bega without any public transport linking the two locations.

Cunningham Federal MP Sharon Bird (Labor) has written to Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, over concerns about the transition to MAX Solutions.

Students say that when they try to contact the company the calls are answered by operators at Brisbane call centre who were not sure where Wollongong was and were unable to advise students of details of course location or childcare arrangements.

“The process has been ill-considered and is chaotic,” Ms Bird said. “I still cannot work out why there are two companies now involved in the delivery of this course .... TAFE was doing a great job."

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