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Crackdown targets dodgy skills providers as part of wider training review

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There are concerns a critical part of skills training reform could be overlooked as the government works to crack down on dodgy providers who exploit international students.

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A new integrity unit will be established and unscrupulous providers could face suspension, expulsion or criminal prosecution as part of a crackdown on unethical and illegal behaviour.

The unit will work with law enforcement agencies to conduct intense compliance checks on high-risk providers in a bid to improve protections for all students.

The confidential VET tip-off line will allow current and former students, staff, homestay hosts and employers of international students to report fraud.

The nation’s vocational education and training regulator will also get a $37.8 million boost.

But the fact independent skills providers lead on critical student and employer satisfaction measures cannot be overlooked, the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) warns.

While integrity enhancements are welcome, the government shouldn’t make it harder for students to use private sector training, the peak body representing independent providers says.

“When nine in 10 students choose to study with an independent skills training provider rather than public TAFE colleges, it’s a pretty good sign of high student satisfaction levels,” Chief Executive Troy Williams said.

“As the Australian government approaches the issue, it also needs to be cognisant that when it comes to delivering quality outcomes, ITECA members achieve the best results.”

Though the Australian Skills Quality Authority already has powers to deal with some matters, the government will ensure the regulator can suspend, expel or deregister a provider, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor told ABC Radio National.

“It will also send a message to others contemplating acting in the same way,” he said.

“We can’t be distracted by this conduct and we can’t allow students to be exploited in the way they have been historically.”

Education Minister Jason Clare said the “shonks” seeking to exploit international students had returned.

The announcement is in response to recommendations made by reviews of the migration system and exploitation of Australia’s visa system.

Australia’s skills ministers will meet next month to consider further changes to strengthen training legislation.

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