News & Views

19th April 2016

HECS debt blowout signals need for VET reform

19 Apr 2016

News that Australian taxpayers will be exposed to a five-fold increase in student’s tertiary education debts over the next ten years signals the need for VET reform, says the CEO of the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), Mr Suresh Manickam.

“Whilst NECA has been a very strong advocate for structural reform with the Vocational Educational and Training (VET) sector, our concerns also extend to the VET FEE HELP system which in many instances, has seen the wrong students targeted to enrol in the wrong courses, or where poorly performing training providers have failed to deliver satisfactory, industry based outcomes and job-ready graduates.”

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Budget Office report on the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) found that more than 20% of new loans taken out over the next ten years are unlikely to be paid back by students and graduates, in part, due to the fact that the borrower wasn’t ever likely to earn above the taxable income threshold.  The report revealed that the total debt is expected to increase to $185.2 Billion by the 2025-26 financial year, accounting for 46.3% of Australia’s public debt.

“Unfortunately, the expansion of the VET FEE-HELP program in previous years, coupled with poor management practices and the lack of regulation and certain training delivery standards has led to this outcome. The days of free laptops and “study now, pay later" campaigns to entice students to enrol in courses, must come to an end,” Mr Manickam said.

As a lead player in the training of current and future electricians and contractors across Australia, NECA aims to ensure that the safety and technical standards of our industry remain a priority.

“NECA has previously called upon the Federal Government to ensure that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) provides strict oversight and monitoring of poorly performing training organisations to ensure beneficial teaching outcomes, that apprentices meet industry needs and standards, and that confidence in vocational education and training remains high.”

“We also ask the Government to ensure that FEE-HELP is reviewed to ensure that the right students are receiving the necessary help to deliver job ready graduates with skills that meet industry needs,” said Mr Manickam.





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Notes for editors


  1. NECA is the peak industry body representing the interests of electrical and communications contractors Australia-wide.

  2. NECA is run by electrical contractors, for electrical contractors.

  3. We have 5,000 contracting companies as members – and they in turn employ over 50,000 people Australia-wide.

  4. NECA employs almost 350 people across its seven chapters (Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia).

  5. The chapters provide NECA members with a range of services including: Industrial Relations, Health & Safety, Legal, Technical, Training, business-support services, product discounts and advocacy representation in Canberra with Government, Industry bodies and Training bodies.

  6. NECA wholly-owns its Legal firm, Group Training and the NECA Colleges (in WA) and EcoSmart Electricians – and has joint ventures with a superannuation company (NSW) and one of the national cabling registrars (ACRS).

  7. NECA also employ around 2,000 apprentice electricians and provides training to a further 2,000.

  8. For further information go to


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