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How you can fill jobs using international students as part of their course.

ASQA Attendance fact sheet 2

WARNING: This is an oversized blog (even for me!!!) due to the number of questions I’ve received from Employers, Students, even RTOs, in the last week alone. I was going to do a webinar, but coordinating that would take a couple of weeks and by then the students would have already made decisions. Plus the research in the last couple of days uncovered some alarming truths that I found surprising, so I hate to think what employers may think…

Not only do employers in the tourism and hospitality sector in Australia rely heavily on international tourists as customers to survive, but a large part of the workforce in this industry was also made up of international students or backpackers who are no longer here on working holiday visas.

This is a problem for all Australians now, not just visa holders, regional areas, and employers.

If it’s not addressed now, even if the borders open tomorrow the Australian economy will have to postpone its recovery if it doesn’t have enough people to operate.

Backpackers were not used as slave labour, or to take Aussie jobs, they were (and still are) in high demand because of their ability to overcome cultural issues with tourists and provide trusted referrals to local businesses. Creating many more jobs for a grateful local economy.

Possible Solutions?

There are solutions, and it turns out the government thinks they have found one. There were over 900,000 international students in Australia when COVID-19 hit, basically from the same demographics as backpackers. While the government originally told them they could just go home they could support themselves, and they don’t get Centrelink payment, many students stayed, albeit restricted to only working 20 hours per week.

Now the government, as the 3rd largest educator of international students in the world (before COVID-19), has decided students can study full-time and work more than 20 hours a week. However, are there enough international students left to help the Australian economy open for business? And with the lack of respect given to them by the Government, why would they want to stay?

What if they stay?

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay. – Henry Ford

There pretty well describes the situation Australia is faced with, created by the education sector itself using international students as Cash Cows who pay at least 5 times more for the privilege of studying in Australia to prop up the industry. Creating a bubble 5 times larger than the VET FEE-HELP. Which the government still complains about Dodgy VFH RTOs which at it’s peak only cost Australia $4 billion in loans, which on average 81% was paid back.

Australian’s have lost at least $15 Billion (AUD) from Students in the last 18 months. Gone, Forever, never to be paid back. And at this stage, there is no plans to get it back, even if the brand damage done by both the Government and educational institutions internationally can be undone.

How many International students did not go home?

The charts below (from the Govt research site) tell the apparent tale of woe for CRICOS RTOs, except the VET sector is the only educational sector that has seen an increase in enrolments since COVID-19. Seems Uni is the big loser, but no surprise when you look at the inflated course costs:

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What is not on this chart is as of February 2021, around 30% – approximately 164,000 – of Australia’s 542,106 student visa holders were stuck outside the country. So it seems that another 30,000 students were not allowed back if that was the drop in one month.

let’s say 450,000 onshore, or less than ½ that was here in 2019. But when you look at the data above, the 2020 figures don’t add up.

No wonder there is so much confusion in the sector. Looks like an (AUD) $20 billion loss in Australia’s GDP, and was also a $20 billion export industry, which is something everyone understands as a big loss.

 What has changed?

 “To support the supply of certain services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force will take a flexible approach to student visa holders, including those working beyond their usual work limitations…”, but only limited sectors.

  • by an aged care Approved Provider or Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider with a RACS ID or a NAPS ID, before 8 September 2020
  • by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider
  • enrolled in a health care related course and you are supporting the health effort against COVID-19, as directed by health officials
  • in the agriculture sector
  • in the tourism and hospitality sector

“For the tourism and hospitality sector, the definition also includes work for employers whose primary purpose is to directly provide a service to tourists, when their activities are not listed in the Division of Accommodation and Food Services under the ANZSIC system.”

So for argument’s sake, let’s include students working as cleaners for tourism and hospitality businesses, as well as CONFERENCE AND EVENT ORGANISERS, CALL OR CONTACT CENTRE AND CUSTOMER SERVICE jobs on the occupational skills list, as well as CAFE AND RESTAURANT MANAGERS from the same list.

What can businesses do now?

The government is great at telling you what you cannot do, but not so great at telling you what you can do.

Here are the FAQ’s I’ve had from employers:

  • Why international students can now help regional tourist areas
  • What jobs international students can do (most can’t be done from home)
  • Why international students have had to keep turning up to work during COVID-19
  • How student can work and study full-time without getting behind
  • What happens if the Government changes its mind, again?

Why couldn’t students help in regional areas before?

As part of their full-time study visas, international students were required to attend face-to-face classes and only allowed to complete 1/3 of their course online. As most Uni and college campuses are based in the capital city regions, it seems the tourism and hospitality sector in regional areas miss out again on getting the help they need.

So even if the tourist comes back, domestic or international, many businesses may not be able to reopen. Or, are forced to operate at a lower capacity with an even more embarrassingly low number of services on offer in the local area.

What is the point of Queensland being “open for business” can’t even take advantage of all the Great Barrier Reef has to offer? Or, are you happy to pay the inflated prices needed just to survive due to government restrictions on trade that could change overnight?

However, now due to COVID-19, CRICOS education providers can provide online classes which open it up for students to move anywhere that has a stable internet connection. Which most of the tourist areas do, and have spare bandwidth normally taken up by Tourists.

If you think because you live in the city, this doesn’t affect you and you have a job, are you happy for your tax dollar to be sent to people where there are no jobs. Sure, they chose to live there, so would you prefer people on Centrelink moved to the city to get a job, your job, now Job keeper has ended?

What jobs international students can do?

“For the tourism and hospitality sector, the definition also includes work for employers whose primary purpose is to directly provide a service to tourists, when their activities are not listed in the Division of Accommodation and Food Services under the ANZSIC system.”

So, for argument’s sake, let’s include students working as cleaners for tourism and hospitality businesses, as well as CONFERENCE AND EVENT ORGANISERS, CALL OR CONTACT CENTRE AND CUSTOMER SERVICE jobs on the occupational skills list, as well as CAFE AND RESTAURANT MANAGERS from the same list.

Many people are surprised to hear that my students actually tell their friends back home to get jobs in the industries (listed above) when they come to Australia. Not because it is the only work, they can get, they say it helps you to learn more about the Australian culture. Students can network with others from overseas as that makes up most of the workforce, and students do not see it as not stressful work.

While some of my students have master’s in the business field from their home country, their education in Australia truly begins when they learn how to survive on a very limited income. The social aspects of working in the Tourism and Hospitality industry is one of the drawcards to working in that industry. You meet people that tell you the best places to visit in Australia, for next to no money, and there is no shortage of travel companions to share costs.

Employers appreciate this work ethic, and don’t see it as taking jobs from “Australians”. Employers in this industry struggle to get Australian’s to work for them. How many young Australians do you know that want to work to save money to go and see Uluru? (That’s Ayres Rock for people from Straya). Let alone the $10k debt (at least) debt the students commit to paying each year. Aussie citizens can get paid as much as that debt to sit at home (at mum and dad’s house), not work, and still have money to live on.

Why international students kept working during COVID-19

Simple, they had to. International students don’t get any job seeker or study allowances like domestic students, and the Government has been very clear in their instructions that if students cannot earn enough to support themselves they must make arrangements to return home.

While the PM informed us (correctly) that international students need to show they have enough money to live in Australia for 1 year when their visa was granted, many of the students in my class has already been in Australia for more than 2 years.

International VET students pay around $10,000 per year for their courses. However, Unis charge around $30,000 to over $40,000, so that may explain why enrolments in VET courses have increased since COVID-19. In a global economic meltdown, what student from any country can afford to pay that without the support from their Family?

Australia has a competitive advantage over the USA when competing for international students as Australia allows students to work, but only part-time (20 hours per week) during their scheduled class term. 

How students can work and study full-time without getting behind

If students are enrolled in business-related courses, which all Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses are related to a business in some way, assessment conditions say “Skills in this unit must be demonstrated in a workplace or simulated environment”.

You can understand how Uni students may not be able to relate their part-time work to their course. But for VET courses work experience counts towards evidence of competency. So why can’t student’s 20 hours of work be counted not only as assessment evidence? and thus attendance to part the scheduled 20 hours study required to be considered full-time students as part of their student visa?

Because ASQA says they can’t? The standards for RTOs say they can, and some units even have assessment conditions that say “Access to workplace policies and procedures”, or “case studies, or where possible, real-world situations”. If they are allowed to work 20 hours a week while studying… it is possible!

This is from the ASQA fact sheet on international student attendance, which has currently been taken down and under review. But this is what it did say:

·        that the course is for a suitable course duration based on a minimum of 20 scheduled course contact hours per week including scheduled classes, course-related information sessions, supervised study sessions, mandatory and supervised work-based training, and examinations

So there are 3 options for RTOs, but this requires RTO trainers to get out there and talk to industry employers. Even though Trainers and assessors are required to do this (under SRTOs 1.13b), and as part of their job description, if they are required to hold TAE40116 to get the job, most trainers see this as extra work.

“If you don’t want to talk to people in your industry, why are you doing training in it?” – Small Business Owners

Entrepreneurs Professional Development
Students taking jobs on the skilled occupation list get a job because there are not enough people in Australia to fill these jobs.

Not all RTOs are created equal

Neither are all compliance managers, but it is the ones who think one size fits all that is the problem. Remembering that compliance managers usually don’t do training or assessing, but set the policy for those who do. You do have to have some empathy for compliance managers as that sets the precedent for people to do training for jobs that they don’t actually do themselves. Justification as to why trainers should be allowed to deliver any course, even if they don’t have industry currency. After all, that is what the RTO allows the compliance manager to do. Until they fail an Audit and get “retrained” by ASQA.

If you want another example because compliance managers are so confused, and basically conditioned into learned helplessness:

AICP is launching the ultimate “MUST HAVE” short (non-accredited) courses for all RTO Compliance Practitioners, RTO Compliance Managers, RTO Managers in general and RTO owners.

Forget about the dozens of VET PD courses being run by dozens of compliance consultants; these new PD courses are the bees-knees of RTO Compliance, the best things since sliced bread and something you cannot afford to miss.

This post was put up on LinkedIn by the registered course owners of the 10609NAT Certificate IV in Vocational Education and Training Compliance, and 10610NAT Diploma of Vocational Education and Training Compliance Management.

So why are the courses “non-accredited” when AICP has accredited courses on their scope of registration? If you look up RTO #45499, Australian Institute of Compliance Professionals Pty Ltd, it says “Registration period expired, registration is taken to continue while a renewal application is considered.”

If you don’t get the irony of a compliance pitching non-accredited courses as the MUST HAVE to accredited course providers, maybe it is that they think you can’t afford to miss this, but they can afford to miss the cut-off date to renew their registration (due 02/04/21)? Maybe The delay is because she ran the #enoughisenough campaign calling for ASQA to be disbanded, but then she was named on the ASQA Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG).

Who wants to be an RTO, seriously, and is this a good representation of you? Particularly internationally? Compared to this, I think Scott Morrison is doing a great job of selling climate change measures on the global stage. But, what would I know… I’m just a trainer.

Not all students are equal either.

To be fair, you have to look after the individual learning needs of each student, even in a group cohort. But RTOs are required to do this already under the standards for RTO, more communing called their training and assessment strategy (TAS).

So after the last section, it seems RTOs need to have it pointed out how would expect RTOs do it for international students, just in case the RTOs get a “Performance Review”.

  • Student not working in the café and restaurants can be give case studies, but “where possible, real situations” in the assessment conditions, so it is actually using the Sim business as a case study that is the worry of non-compliance as it may not meet the requirements of using a simulated business on the checklist given in the TAE3.2 implementation guide.
  • SRTOs 1.13 – “Industry experts may also be involved in the assessment judgment, working alongside the trainer and/or assessor to conduct the assessment.”
  • There is nothing I’ve found or been told that says the student cannot be paid for the work placement, except that they are limited to 40 hours of paid work per fortnight. But if the work is related to the course in the TAS contextualization as an option, the paid work hours also count as scheduled course hours, do they not? Feel free to correct me if you have information on this.
  • If the trainer talks to the employer prior to assessment it counts as PD under 1.13b. However, if the trainer talks to the employer to confirm the authenticity of the student’s work as part of the assessment for a unit, it cannot be count as PD for the trainer.

The RTO is also required to do their own engagement with businesses under SRTOs 1.5-1.6:

  • 1.5. The RTO’s training and assessment practices are relevant to the needs of the industry and informed by industry engagement.
  • 1.6. The RTO implements a range of strategies for industry engagement and systematically uses the outcome of that industry engagement to ensure the industry relevance of:
  • o  its training and assessment strategies, practices and resources; and
  • o  the current industry skills of its trainers and assessors.

The job on the skill occupations list, CAFE AND RESTAURANT MANAGERS, AQF Associate Degree, Advanced Diploma or Diploma (ANZSCO Skill Level 2), requires At least three years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualifications listed above. In some instances, relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification.

So if you incorporate the tasks below into you assessment, or task from the skills list of other work your student currently do, International students can get better quality training then just a competency based training can offer as this system includes an assessment from an employer of real-world proficiency.

  1. planning menus in consultation with Chefs
  2. planning and organising special functions
  3. arranging the purchasing and pricing of goods according to budget
  4. maintaining records of stock levels and financial transactions
  5. ensuring dining facilities comply with health regulations and are clean, functional, and of suitable appearance
  6. conferring with customers to assess their satisfaction with meals and service
  7. selecting, training, and supervising waiting and kitchen staff
  8. may take reservations, greet guests and assist in taking orders

What happens if the Government changes its mind, again?

For advice on this, I asked Australia’s best immigration lawyer, Nilesh Nandan from MyVisa Australia.

Nilesh has over 20 years experience in appealing visa refusals, so you could say he also has a lot of expertise in dealing with issues when the Australian government changes its mind. He sees the effect this has on people firsthand, which drives his passion to take on cases that others see as too hard.

Nilesh explained to me “if students work more than 20 hours a week, the government may see it (the student) as not a genuine student under their visa conditions”. He added “the government hasn’t changed the laws (as far as he knows at that time), just said they are not going to enforce it. The government could turn around and start enforcing it again, and students could get caught out”.

While MyVisa is not a specialist in student visas and focuses on work, residency, and partner visas he agreed with me that with all the uncertainty at the moment students would likely be best suited to stay on their student visa and meet the conditions.

The department of home affairs website says “If you are working or have an offer of employment in one of the sectors above, and you have finished your course, you may be eligible for a COVID-19 Pandemic (subclass 408) visa.”

If you do have concerns, you can book a 10-minute free chat with Nilesh to discuss your situation. This No-Charge service is available for 90% of Australian visa inquiries.

At the end of all this, the government advice to students is:

You must continue to balance your study and work commitments even though there is more flexibility in work hours in certain sectors.

Students who work more than 40 hours per fortnight in the above sectors, must:

maintain their course enrolment

ensure satisfactory course attendance, and;

ensure satisfactory course progress.

Message to students

I don’t want you to knock back work, but remember that you have the same right as a student as any other customer of a service provider in Australia. Keep communication open with your college or Uni as they are required to provide support services for students.

There is a lot RTOs can do that they may not have been set up to do in normal times. Trainers are set up to give extra help online now to help you catch up. The fastest way I’ve found to catch up is to hand in the first draft, then your trainer can tell you what to add.

Why write (or copy) 200 words when 20 will do, but the quickest way to do this is using your thoughts. Just put what you think. This includes people that think they have to get it right the first time, that’s not how training works.

If you get a trainer that expects you to get it right the first attempt, that is the trainer being lazy, not you. 

Talking on zoom is also used as evidence you are the one doing the work, so if you turn up to the online class. This is usually the fastest way to do your course, and your work too, so another way you can learn how to earn extra income through learning how to do remote work in your course.