Why is training in oil & gas drilling fee-free?

The Queensland Government’s blueprint for reform of vocational education and training (VET), Great Skills Real Opportunities, which was released in June last year, goes a long way toward creating a more efficient and responsive VET sector, but falls short in some areas. The reform program is right to make training funding contestable and to corporatize TAFE, but it falls short of what would be ideal regarding the setting of public subsidies for training courses.

Queensland’s VET system still lacks a clear, rigorous methodology for setting the public subsidy for training courses – that is, is the level of contribution from the Government to help cover course costs, in addition to what is provided by students in course fees. This was apparent last week when the Education and Training Minister announced this year’s list of apprenticeship and traineeships that would be fee-free and fully publicly subsidised (see the Ministerial press release).

I was rather surprised to see that training in oil & gas drilling would be fee-free. This is a bit odd given the high level of private benefits, in the form of higher earnings, that would accrue to people completing the course. It’s unclear what degree of analysis was undertaken in identifying the priority courses listed in the press release. I would expect that any rigorous subsidy-setting methodology would dial down the subsidy level where there were large expected private benefits through higher earnings.

If the Government is concerned that course fees might discourage people from training, then, instead of making courses it identifies as priorities fee-free, it should instead work with the Commonwealth to introduce income-contingent loans, similar to HECS-HELP in the higher education sector, for all VET courses. This way a student could defer upfront fees that might discourage him or her from studying, and pay back the loan when they’re in the workforce and earning a reasonable amount of money.

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4 Responses to Why is training in oil & gas drilling fee-free?

  1. Sue Feeney says:

    It is refreshing to read some interrogation of the Queensland State Government’s intervention in the VET sector. As is always the case, gross generalizations more often that not merely serve to muddy the waters. The assertion by the Minister that “Under Labor, the vocational education and training (VET) sector was a real mess, with below standard training facilities, and dwindling student numbers” is a classic example of this. Both TAFEs and private providers have their share of below standard training facilities and dwindling student numbers but also their share of excellent training facilities and growing student numbers. One area that TAFEs delivered well (in general, oops a generalization) was learning support for struggling students. Having made training fully contestable may well mean students in a fee free place may be required to pay for needed support. Places are to be offered to students who have completed Year 12 in Queensland and hold a ‘Senior Statement’ issued by the Queensland Studies Authority. Unfortunately this does not mean they will be successful in their chosen course without additional support. Prior to the reforms TAFEs often absorbed the additional costs of learning support. This will no longer be possible in a fully contestable training market. In my opinion this makes a mockery of the “real opportunities” for many of the students who will struggle to successfully complete their free course.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Sue, thanks for your comment. That’s a good point about the need for additional support for some students who may not receive it in a reformed VET system. I hope this is something the Education Department is considering as it designs the new system.

  2. Katrina drake says:

    Where there is government handouts the rorts will quickly follow and thrive ! Remember home insulation, etc,

    One only needs a quick look at the expansive lists of training providers to see Vet-fee help and hec-help and “free” training using tax-payer money has lead to a thriving rort based-economy of trainers, training trainers.

    http://www.training.qld.gov.au/resources/investing-in-skills/pdfs/quals-providers.pdf

    I know of so many young people in the Gen-y cohort sucked into this training rort on the promise of jobs as personal trainers, or mining certificates, business certificates, airline certificates on the promise of jobs on graduation that are non-existent. The ones benefitting the most are the training organisations and trainers growing profitably on this taxpayer largess.

    I agree training young people is immensely valuable, but where is the oversight, governance and cost benefit of this “free” training ?

    Many industries now sees training as a major source of income, and have closed the “shop” to only employ graduates from their training centres. They put students through a fully government funded course charging upto $100k per annum, they only employ from their graduates, but they do not guarantee employment. Thus ensuring a steady stream of hopefuls. Sounds like a rort to me.

  3. Gene Tunny says:

    Thanks Katrina. Certainly if they’re receiving training dollars from the Government the training providers should be subject to a high degree of oversight. I too worry about inappropriately training our young people. It’s pretty obvious too many people are doing PT courses.

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