In mid November, the Federal Government announced a further crackdown on the troubled VET sector, with access to the student loan scheme now linked to new requirements that at least 50% of students complete their courses.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham argued that the changes were designed to ensure that taxpayer funds flowed only to the reputable colleges, and that the move, coupled with earlier changes to eligibility for HELP funding, would lead to a more streamlined and efficient VET sector, an industry that has been bedevilled by claims of rorting and unconscionable behaviour.
However, industry figures have slammed the changes, fearing it will unfairly affect up to 90,000 students, and pointing out that, while the average completion rate is around 39%, this is because many students don’t attend VET colleges for a qualification, as such, but rather to gain skills from two or three courses and then move into work.
Labor has signalled support for the changes, and if the Government can get them included in a busy legislative agenda over the closing two sitting weeks of the year, the new arrangements will start from 1 January.
Negotiations are continuing with Navitas, both for Navitas English ACT (which operates AMEP and SEE programs in the territory), and Navitas English Services (which run courses for international students). Negotiations are also getting started at Embassy English (Study Group), Sydney English Language Centre (SELC) and Australian Pacific College.
Many matters at Navitas English ACT have now been settled, with agreement reached around preparation time, recognised teacher experience, off site classes and classifications for non teaching staff. However, the parties are still some way off agreeing to a salary offer. The view of both staff and their Union is that the ACT agreement should match the NSW rates, especially since the new government contract areas will include both Canberra and southern NSW. NE have not accepted this position, and are offering to pay increases matching the Wages Price Index (currently around 2% per annum) for the life of the agreement. Teachers have rejected this offer.
At Navitas English Services, negotiations are less well advanced, with little agreed so far, and with the employer yet to provide a salary position. The Union has made clear that it is seeking decent general salary increases, additional increases for senior teachers, and a commitment to create an agreed number of permanent positions. This final point is particularly important in a workplace with an overwhelming preponderance of insecure employment.
News from abroad
The main union dealing with private colleges in Japan is the General Union, and during 2016 they have been locking horns with several employers. Earlier this year, the union ran a campaign with teachers at the NOVA chain of schools, incensed that the travel allowance for teachers was a mere