An aspiring TAFE student said she has been denied government assistance and labelled a ‘professional student’ for undertaking a course 22 years ago.
Joanne Worthington of Cessnock enrolled into the Certificate III in Aged Care on December 18 last year.
An unemployed single mum, Ms. Worthington said she was looking at this career path due to the current shortage of staff, meaning her job prospects would be quite high.
She said she calculated online that the course would be $240 with government assistance.
However upon arrival at Cessnock TAFE earlier this year she said she was considered to be a ‘professional student’ as she had studied another course in the past and would have to pay $6100 to do the course.
The course she completed 22 years ago was an advanced certificate in office administration, equivalent to a current certificate IV.
She said because she has studied a higher certificate in the past, she was told she would not receive government assistance for studying a lower qualification.
Ms. Worthington was going to get the $240 paid through a job network but she said they were not willing to pay the $6100 for her to do the course.
Ms. Worthington said she was devastated when she discovered that she would not be able to complete the course, and is now back to square one on the job search.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said stories like Ms. Worthington’s are the direct result of the Smart and Skilled program that has been implemented by the NSW Government.
The policy outlines that students’ eligibility for a government-subsidised Smart and Skilled courses depend on their previous qualifications, stating ‘If you haven’t completed a Certificate IV or higher-level qualification, you’re entitled to enrol in a subsidised course up to Certificate III.’
Mr. Barr said he supports Ms. Worthington’s efforts to study at TAFE, and is concerned about the affordability of TAFE courses under the Smart and Skilled program for people that have previously studied at TAFE.
“The idea that an unemployed person, or person with limited income, could afford $6000, $10,000 or $15,000 to get themselves trained, job ready and employable is completely absurd,” he said.
“I am proud to support Joanne Worthington in her bid to be trained and job ready.
“She has raised a family since and is now looking to re-join the work force.
“She has a new career in the skill shortage area of aged care; this all makes perfect sense, common sense, to everyone.
“But then, she is told that because she studies at TAFE 22 years ago, she would not be welcome back unless she paid the full fee of $6100, this is the outcome of an ill-informed and out-of-touch minister and government.”
Mr. Barr wrote to the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli to see if Ms. Worthington could receive an exemption to due to her circumstances; however he was advised that she is not eligible for a government-subsidised training place in Certificate III in Aged Care as she has completed a Certificate IV level qualification.
Nationals Candidate for Cessnock, Jessica Price-Purnell said she is a supporter of the Smart and Skilled program and believes it will benefit Cessnock.
“The Smart and Skilled reforms mean that an extra 60,000 students will be able to train this year than if the system remained the same and yes, while there are fees, there are significant subsidies and scholarships available,” she said.
“I believe that fees reflect the shared benefits for the student, the government and the community.
“Cessnock needs skilled workers; the government are asking students to make a contribution to something that will prove invaluable.
“A qualification will not only increase a person’s job prospects and income levels, it will also help give that person a better quality of life.”
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