Question Without Notice: Vocational Education and Training

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE — Sue Pennicuik to ask the Minister for Training and Skills.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — My question is to the Minister for Training and Skills, and it relates to his ministers statement and media release of yesterday where he reported on training rorts by certain employers and a registered training organisation.

This issue has been escalating ever since market contestability was introduced. I raised it several times in Parliament but it fell on the deaf ears of the last government. This particular issue involved automotive apprentices who were all enrolled with a common training provider. The minister mentioned cancellation of training contracts and support for those apprentices who wished to continue training. Can the minister advise whether that particular training provider has been suspended or deregistered?

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — That is a good question. I am just testing my memory on that. I believe they have surrendered their training contract, but I will come back and confirm whether they were deregistered or exactly what is the case.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — With regard to the apprentices whose training has been disrupted by this episode, what supports have been put in place for apprentices who wish to continue their apprenticeships, including ensuring that they do not incur additional costs, and what has been done to assist those apprentices for whom, as the minister described in his statement, the damage has already been done?

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her question. It is an excellent question. With this particular case, as I understand it, a number of those automotive apprentices never actually worked or were employed in the automotive area. Some of them are not interested in continuing or redoing their training. They have all been contacted and advised that their training guarantee entitlements have been renewed.

Those who want to continue doing an automotive apprenticeship are being given every support to take it back up. If they have learnt anything and can obtain recognition of prior learning, I am sure they will. Otherwise we will assist them in getting another training provider. It is always difficult getting a good employer. Sometimes the group training companies help. However, I am advised that the department is working through those issues with those students who want to continue with their apprenticeships.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — My question is to the Minister for Training and Skills. In his media statement dated yesterday relating to his ministers statement the minister said that this year the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) will conduct regulatory campaigns targeting specific qualifications and occupations and will be on the lookout for inadequate supervision, work duties that do not match the qualification that an apprentice is enrolled in and employers who do not release apprentices to attend training. Which qualifications and occupations will be targeted by the VRQA?

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her question. As members know, not all training companies are registered through the VRQA; in fact the VRQA registers a small percentage. Many are registered through the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), which does the registration auditing. In regard to automotive qualifications, however, the VRQA has responsibility for apprenticeships and the maintenance of apprenticeships and how they are serviced.

In regard to what is being targeted, there is regular auditing and now there is targeted auditing in areas where the VRQA receives a large number of complaints and want to check. I am not sure which specific qualifications the VRQA will audit this year. If it has some planned in its auditing forward estimates — it has advised me that it is doing that — I will get that information to the member.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — I look forward to knowing what those specific qualifications and occupations are because, as I have mentioned before, I have been concerned that the VRQA has not been well resourced enough to fulfil its functions in ensuring that registered training organisations and employers are meeting their obligations under the act and just generally. I want to know whether this is a step up in activity by the VRQA and by the government and whether extra resources have been put forward to undertake the specific qualification and occupation target that the minister mentioned.

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her supplementary question. I was asked a question yesterday during my statement about when it started. The automotive ones started in about April last year and concluded in about December. It was obviously a small attempt by the government to address what had been a systemic failure of quality control and a light touch that had been taken by the department and the VRQA. That is the way governments make these decisions. I note that the commonwealth government is now asking for a heavier touch in terms of ASQA's regulation. In the case of automotive qualifications, it was a good review, but it was a bit like acting too little too late or shutting the gate when the horse has bolted.

A range of issues relate to the member's question. Firstly, we have a policy of handing over the VRQA — —

The PRESIDENT — Order! The minister's time has expired. Given that Mr Herbert was not able to complete the answer as he wished, I request that he provide written responses to Ms Pennicuik in respect of both the substantive questions she has asked today, which he has undertaken to do, and also to provide a response to the supplementary question, because he ran out of time in his response to that question.

Mr HERBERT — I am happy to do that, and if Ms Pennicuik would like to request a departmental briefing, I am happy to provide that too.

Thursday, 26th February 2015