Bradley Stark with the iPad delivered free for joining a management training course. Photo: Meredith O’SheaAn unscrupulous education broker recently targeted public housing tenants in Prahran, luring elderly and disabled residents into training courses by giving them free iPads.
The revelations coincide with the federal government announcing on Thursday that training providers could be hit with fines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if they fail to provide clear and accurate information about courses. A ban on private colleges offering inducements such as laptops, meals and cash has also come into effect.
A broker working for training provider Alderdice and Associates approached Bradley Stark in January as he walked into King Street public housing estate in Prahran, and used high-pressure sales techniques to enrol the 59-year-old in a business management course. The training provider said the broker acted in an “immoral and misleading” way.
Mr Stark, who is on a disability pension, signed up because he was offered a free laptop and was told it did not matter if he did not attend the course.
He began to have reservations a few weeks later and contacted the training provider to tell them he was not interested.
“But they went ahead anyway and delivered an iPad instead of a laptop to my flat two weeks ago.”
He said more than a dozen residents in his estate signed up to the course, and some had cashed in their iPads at the local pawn broker.
“It was quite clear that there are a lot of vulnerable people in this estate. If you came into the building you would see a brigade of walking frames. They were signing these elderly people up to a course in business management and a lot of people don’t even speak English. Morally, I think it stinks.”
Alderdice and Associates chief executive Nicholas Alderdice said all the public housing tenants had been unenrolled from the course and none had incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt. He said the broker used a new name every few weeks and was trading as RGIT when the incident took place.
He blamed the incident on a broker who had a trial with the training provider, and said the trial was terminated once they became aware of “immoral and misleading sales tactics”.
“Alderdice & Associates trialled an education broker who misrepresented applicants and completed course pre-requisite information on the applicant`s behalf, in an effort to enrol as many students as possible rather than targeting people who would be suitable candidates and benefit from our training.”
He said tenants who had received iPads would be able to keep them as a “gesture of goodwill”.
Mr Alderdice said he informed the federal government about the broker and no longer offered iPads as inducements.
Prahran MP and the Greens’ TAFE and training spokesman Sam Hibbins was notified of the incident this week and said he was shocked that vulnerable residents had been targeted.
He said the incident highlighted the failures of the former state Labor government’s reforms to the sector, which meant private training colleges and TAFEs competed for government money.
“To think these practices are occurring as recently as 2015 is incredible.”
Assistant federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said he hoped the fines helped stamp out unscrupulous practices by training providers.
“There are far too many stories that involve the targeting of vulnerable Australians in low socioeconomic areas, in housing estates, nursing homes and Aboriginal communities.”
He said the Australian Skills Quality Authority would be able to issue fines for breaches of new “tough standards”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.