Valley staff and students left in the lurch

Staff and students are searching for answers after the confirmed closure of two private training facilities based in the Latrobe Valley.

TBM Training closed its Morwell and Cranbourne doors last month with Worksafe Training Centre following suit at its Morwell and Campbellfield sites last week.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said it was unclear where this left students who were part-way through courses or had paid for study they had not yet begun.

He also expressed concern for staff who were now looking for work.

“We are yet to understand the reasons and rationale why these RTOs (registered training organisations) have folded,” Mr Northe said.

“Is it because of onerous government regulations and scrutiny? Is it because of their own financial mismanagement? Is it because certain courses are not viable?

“These are the questions that need to be answered, but we don’t have that information as yet.

“The last thing we want to see is RTOs ripping off taxpayers or local students and at the same time leaving an uncertain legacy for staff members.”

Former employees of Worksafe Training Centre told The Express they had been ‘working on a promise’ after they received an email from management.

The 29 April email stated staff payments would not be met for a number of weeks, but asked all staff for their patience until large work contracts came in.

One former trainer and assessor at Worksafe’s Swan Road, Morwell site said it was not a surprise when liquidators from Hamilton Murphy walked through the door on 9 May.

“But once the actual crunch had come, it was devastating to everybody,” the former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“At the start it was a good company and it was a very profitable company for a few years, so it was devastating that when the axe falls and you realise, how are you going to meet your financial commitments?

“Then you’ve got to go to Centrelink, then you’ve got to try and find a job, so that stage is quite distressing for the employees.”

Appointed liquidator for Worksafe Training Centre, Richard Rohrt, managing principal of Hamilton Murphy, said on Monday all resources had so far gone into working out the claims former staff members were entitled to.

He said at that stage it appeared about 23 employees were going to lodge a claim with the Federal Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee.

The firm is looking to recover about half a million dollars.

Mr Rohrt was unable to confirm the number of students enrolled with Worksafe Training Centre or their records.

He said the firm would hold a creditors’ meeting on 27 May, after which it would continue its investigation into the company’s affairs.

The closures come as the State Government invests millions of dollars in the public training system.

That involves a $320 million TAFE Rescue Fund, $50 million TAFE Back to Work Fund and a $50 million TAFE Boost fund.

“Students are our number one priority. That’s exactly why we’re cleaning up the training system – we make no apology for that,” a spokesperson for Training and Skills Minister Steve Herbert said.

“The government is in the middle of transforming the training system so it better meets the needs of students and industry.

“We fund 12 TAFEs, four dual sector universities and more than 300 private training providers to deliver high quality training that leads to real jobs.”

The spokesperson said the Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority had records of students who studied at TBM and would ensure they were issued with statements of attainment.

The spokesperson confirmed any student who received government funding for their training would be able continue at another provider.

The Express understands Worksafe Training Centre was registered with the Australian Skills Quality Authority, but had not received a 2016 Victorian Training Guarantee Contract.

Due to the exact facts associated with a transaction between Worksafe Training Centre and the purchaser of the company’s assets not yet ascertained as of yesterday, it is unclear who those students should contact.

Anyone wanting information about their training should phone the TAFE and Training Line on 131 823.