Service Skills Victoria | 29 September 2014
Enrolments in the service industry training in Victoria have fallen significantly over the last 18 months, according to new research conducted by Victoria and Federation Universities on behalf of Service Skills Victoria. The drop in enrolments is due to changes made to the funding of training in the service industries by the Victorian State Government.
New subsidy rates were introduced in the 2012 State Budget for all new enrolments from January 2012 and for all existing students from January 2013. Further adjustments to the rates were made later in 2013 and in 2014.
A significant proportion – about 70% – are in the two lowest funding bands at just $4.50 per hour or less of service industry qualifications, including hospitality and retail training.
John Sweetman, chair of Service Skills Victoria, says that as a result, some colleges have stopped offering courses in service sector qualifications altogether, while others have substantially reduced their course offerings.
The key findings of the research indicate that as a result of the funding changes there has been a substantial reduction in enrolments in a range of service industry training courses, especially in hospitality and retail.
Fewer enrolments has also meant the closure, mothballing or refitting for other purposes of specialist training facilities, such as those used for teaching kitchens and restaurants.
The changes have led to significant staff reductions by many training providers and a loss of morale among teachers, especially in the TAFE system, Sweetman said.
The financial viability of many TAFEs and some private registered training organisations has also decreased substantially as a result of the changes.
A number of TAFE colleges in particular are now in a very precarious financial position and have a medium or high financial sustainability risk.
According to the researchers the changes present a risk to the quality of training delivery and an urgent rethink of the Victorian VET funding model is needed if confidence of both the service industries and training providers is to be restored.
The reduced funding has also resulted in the closure or reduction of key student support services, led to larger classes, less teacher-student contact, less classroom time and more online learning.
“The changes have been a major source of confusion for employers and providers and have resulted in a loss of confidence among employers in the quality of graduates and also a loss of public confidence in the broader vocational education and training system,” Mr Sweetman explained.
Mr Sweetman points out that industry is concerned that the decline in enrolments will mean insufficient numbers of trained staff to work in the service industries going forward.
“Industry is also concerned that the changes mean that the government has a low view of the importance and economic value and worth of the service industries.”