THE national skills regulator will weed out shonky aged-care training colleges that churn out graduates who are ill-prepared to work in nursing homes.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority has launched a review of aged-care training in response to widespread concerns about substandard education for workers.
A Productivity Commission report released last year found the quality of training varied wildly between colleges. But students received the same certificate III qualification in aged care, which is two levels below a diploma, that allowed them to work in nursing homes. In some instances students received little more than the most basic education that left them dangerously unprepared to work with vulnerable nursing home residents.
The report revealed some Melbourne training providers rushed students through a certificate III course in as little as three weeks. Reputable providers require up to a year to run these courses.
ASQA chief commissioner Chris Robinson said audits over the past 18 months had already uncovered instances of training providers failing to meet acceptable standards.
Failure to adequately assess students' skills and knowledge before they completed their course was among the most widespread problems in the aged-care training sector.
Mr Robinson said the review would be completed by June next year, including recommendations to improve the quality of training. ''As the number of older Australians rises and the demand for aged-care services increases, there will be an increase in demand for a well-trained aged-care workforce,'' he said.
More than a million Australians receive aged-care services, but that number is expected to hit 3.5 million by 2050.
Victorian TAFE Association executive director David Williams believed employers often refused to hire aged-care workers unless they had graduated from reputable institutes, such as TAFEs, because they were often unable to complete basic workplace tasks.
Graduates who had received shoddy qualifications then faced massive fees to repeat courses at TAFEs because they had already used their government subsidy.
Mr Williams wrote to federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans last year asking for an urgent review into aged-care training because he was concerned some private colleges were putting students through shonky courses.
''They were very much fast-tracking the training. They were doing it in way less than the normal scheduled hours of training,'' he said.
The Productivity Commission report found there was a shortage of aged-care workers, but this had not led to higher wages.
Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive John Kelly said nurses working in aged care were generally paid about 14 per cent less than those who worked in hospitals.
''Part of the problem in attracting people is the salary disparity,'' he said, adding that a certificate III qualification provided insufficient training for workers to meet the complex health needs of elderly people in nursing homes.