‘Dodgy’ trade colleges cop million dollar fines in latest crackdo

By Jarrod
4 Min Read

Fraudulent trade colleges face steep fines as the Government attempts to boost education standards and crack down on rampant visa scams. 

In an effort to weed out the dodgy education providers, new laws will see colleges that have laid dormant for 12 months have their registrations cancelled effective immediately.

Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor was also granted the ability to block new applications for suspicious institutions, and training organisations will be forced to have operated for more than two years before expanding course offerings.

“What we are doing is simple. We are making it tougher for the bottom-feeders, the fraudsters, and the cheats to take advantage of students for a quick buck,” said Minister O’Connor.

“We are restoring integrity to the sector.”

This latest assault on dodgy trainers follows a review by former Victorian police chief Christine Nixon last year, who found student visas were being “systemically defrauded” to funnel vulnerable temporary migrants into low-skilled and illegal work.

According to a 2022 report from Unions NSW, 60 per cent of foreign language job advertisements were below minimum wage, despite the post-COVID environment of labour shortages and record low migration.

“These reforms are a seismic shift in favour of justice and fairness,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“We have heard stories of foreign workers rummaging through bins, being paid rations and enduring sexual and physical assault. Today’s reforms are built on the bravery of those workers and trade unions pay tribute to them.

“Migrant exploitation has been a blight on Australia. Today’s reform bring us a big step to making the ‘fair go’ closer to reality than rhetoric.”

In October, a parliamentary committee also recommended that the Australian Skills Quality Authority pause applications for new international colleges, with limited exceptions for those with industry links or endorsed by state and territory governments.

“We will weed out dodgy providers that exist in the sector, who seek to exploit students and compromise the integrity and reputation of the entire sector in the process,” added Minister O’Connor.

The Albanese government’s latest overhaul of vocational training will also see the creation of several centres of excellence that focus on areas of need to address skill shortages across the economy.

Electrical Trades Union National Secretary Michael Wright said the reforms were a critical step to maintaining the integrity of vocational education.

“Only a minority of training organisations are dodgy, but they are trashing Australia’s reputation and exploiting often vulnerable international students,” Wright said.

“The bald truth is that profit-making businesses have no place in training. We need operators who want to solve the skills shortage, not make a quick buck.”

“Organisations that are doing the right thing are sick of watching shonks get away with rip off schemes. Minister O’Connor and the Federal Government have done the right thing by moving decisively.”

While this latest crackdown promises to improve learning conditions for VET students, Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) Chief Executive Troy Willams says the legislative change also raises concerns. 

“Although the Australian Government’s legislative amendments have this broad intent, there are also some concerning aspects to what’s proposed,” said Mr Williams.

“This is a degree of market intervention that we’ve not seen before, not only in the skills training system but elsewhere in the economy. 

“ITECA wants to see amendments that strengthen the legislation by putting in place safeguards. These include placing a limit on the amount of time that a ban on new RTOs would be in place.”

ITECA told Build-it that they have written to the Australian Government recommending that safeguard measures be put in place.

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.