THOUSANDS of students doing work placements and apprenticeships through Careers Australia have had their futures thrown into doubt after the training provider went into voluntary administration.
Nursing student James (not his real name) said his cohort had just finished their final classes and only had a four-week work placement left to complete before graduation, leaving them $26,000 out of pocket.
"We all went off and celebrated finishing 18 months of pretty full-on study, just to be let down," he said. "We don't even know if we'll be able to graduate."
He said some students had approached the local TAFE to find out if they could transfer to a course there, only to be told that it would likely be impossible as "the course codes don't match up".
James, who left behind a lucrative trade to pursue his dream of a nursing career, said many of his classmates had booked accommodation and car hire for their placements.
"Now they've been told they're not going, can they get a refund? I don't know," he said.
Even more concerning is the $26,000 study debt that he and his classmates have been lumped with.
"If it all falls through, I know I can get back on my feet, but there are ladies in their fifties who have taken two years off to do the course. What do they do?
"It seems unfair that we have completed 99.9 per cent of the requirements but we can't graduate."
And he criticised the manner in which Careers Australia communicated its dire situation to students, with a late night text message on Thursday that read:
"All activities of Careers Australia Group are suspended. No classes, no workplaces effective immediately. Further information will be provided. No not reply".
There was "no empathy" expressed in the message, James said, suggesting the company should have contacted students before the news broke in the media.
THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS AND STAFF AFFECTED
Careers Australia staff have also been stood down without pay as administrators David McEvoy and Martin Ford of PPB Advisory go through the company's books.
"We do not currently have sufficient funds available to meet payroll and other costs which would allow us to continue trading the group on a 'business as usual' basis," the administrators said in a letter to staff. "You have been stood down without pay until further notice, effective immediately."
Students have been told all work placements, apprenticeships and traineeships are now suspended.
"All the group's campuses are closed until further notice with immediate effect and all classes and work placements are suspended," students were told.
Careers Australia has 13 campuses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.
The Electrical Trades Union said the collapse affected 15,000 students and 1000 staff, just six weeks after the company was stripped of its accreditation to deliver VET-funded courses.
Students and staff had been promised training would continue as usual for the remainder of 2017, the union said.
ETU national apprentice officer Mark Burgess said while the union was happy to see the end of Career Australia's "substandard apprentice program", it would have a huge impact on staff and apprentices.
"The union's number one priority is to help these electrical apprentices find alternate training providers as soon as possible so that they can continue their trade training with as little disruption as possible," Mr Burgess said on Friday.
Victorian Training Minister Gayle Tierney called on the federal government to step in to help out affected students.
The administrators are expected to update staff and students next week.
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