Screenworks General manager Ken Crouch slams the government's VET shake-up.
Screenworks General manager Ken Crouch slams the government's VET shake-up. Marc Stapelberg

North Coast film industry slams scrapping of course fee subsidies

NORTH coast screen industry association Screenworks will be investigating the impact of the government's recent decision to strike off several screen and performance-based courses from the VET student loan program.

This month Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham announced a shake up eligible courses, reducing 800 courses to a list of 347.

"Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments, or provide 'lifestyle' choices, but don't lead to work,” Mr Birmingham said.

However, Screenworks General Manager, Ken Crouch refuted that diploma courses such as Screen Acting and Screen Performance were simply 'lifestyle choices' without economic impact.

"Based on a 5-year average, the screen industry in the Northern Rivers contributes approximately $20 million and up to 700 jobs per year to the local economy. These economic figures compare strongly with other industries in the region, and we have always believed that the screen industry's contribution is under-appreciated in the Northern Rivers.”

The changes being made to the VET program may affect some courses currently being offered in the region such as those offered by Byron Bay's SAE Institute, he said.

"For young people living in regional Australia, we understand that a lot of students attend these courses locally so that they don't have to travel away from their homes to undertake courses that would otherwise only be offered in metropolitan centres. Obviously, when people have to move away from home, it is not only the economic impact on the individual, but the lost opportunities for the local region that need to be considered.”

"We're particularly concerned that talented young people in the Northern Rivers will miss out on being able to pursue a screen industry career only because these courses are either too expensive or that they cannot afford to move to Sydney or Brisbane because the courses are no longer offered in their region.

"We are concerned that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially those who are passionate and have significant potential to succeed and contribute to the screen industry, may not be able to pursue these careers as a result of these changes.

The government will close off new loans under VET FEE-HELP at the end of 2016, with the new program including course restrictions for providers, loan caps to begin from January 2017 and student engagement requirements commencing from mid-2017.

"Screenworks is concerned that a number of screen-related courses are listed in the courses no longer VET eligible and we are planning to investigate what impact this may have on the local screen industry in the near future,” Mr Crouch said.