SmartCity training college officially de-registered

CUT OFF: SmartCity has been officially cut off from providing nationally-recognised courses.
CUT OFF: SmartCity has been officially cut off from providing nationally-recognised courses. Contributed

A SUNSHINE Coast-based national training college which pocketed more than $80 million in government funding has officially been de-registered.

SmartCity Vocational College Pty Ltd withdrew an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review the federal regulator's decision on February 10 cancelling its registration as a vocational education and training provider.

The decision not to challenge the de-registration means the Australian Skills Quality Authority's cancellation which was to take effect on March 6, has now been enacted, cutting SmartCity off the Federal Government's VET-Fee Help student loan funding.

SmartCity also had its application to provide vocational education and training services to overseas students refused.

The tribunal formally dismissed the application to review the decision yesterday.

"This means ASQA's decisions have now come into effect and SmartCity can no longer offer nationally-recognised qualifications under the Australian Qualifications Framework," an Australian Skills Quality Authority spokesman said.


WISHING THEM WELL: SC Admin and SmartCity Vocational College director James Spong.
WISHING THEM WELL: SC Admin and SmartCity Vocational College director James Spong. Facebook

The de-registration rules SmartCity out of providing Certificate I-IV, Diploma and other nationally-recognised qualifications.

SmartCity can still provide training to students, but its courses will not be nationally-recognised.

The Daily approached SmartCity director Jim Spong and his son, CEO Glenn Spong for comment.

Jim Spong said he had "successfully managed businesses for around 40 years" and had "enjoyed the latest challenges of trying to make a positive difference in the VET sector".

He said he'd seen "first-hand" the empowerment vocational education could provide, with a "heavily dyslexic wife and children".

He said SmartCity had always strived to do vocational education well and hoped the government continued to support with viable options their cohort of students who "struggled in a former classroom structure at school".

Mr Spong said students that were mid-study with SmartCity had been transitioned to other registered training organisations and because of that, he saw "little point" in appealing the Tribunal's decision.

The suthority decided to de-register the training college after finding SmartCity did not have enough appropriately qualified trainers and assessors for the number of students enrolled.

SmartCity was also found to have insufficient learning resources for students enrolled and insufficient facilities to continue delivering face-to-face training to those enrolled in face-to-face or partially face-to-face delivered courses.


NOT RESPONDING: SmartCity Vocational College CEO Glenn Spong.
NOT RESPONDING: SmartCity Vocational College CEO Glenn Spong. Contributed

The Coast-based college had campuses around the country in Armadale (WA), Bundaberg, Cairns, Caloundra, Elizabeth (SA), Fairfield (NSW), Gympie, Hervey Bay, Hobart, Inala, Ipswich, Launceston, Maroochydore, North Lakes, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Townsville, although its website now shows only Maroochydore under the locations tab.

SmartCity closed from December 16 last year until January 26, after its administrative arm, SC Admin Pty Ltd, also directed by Jim Spong, went into voluntary liquidation on December 16.

Hundreds of SmartCity staff were left jobless after SC Admin's collapse, left chasing up to $2.6 million owed to them in unpaid annual leave and other entitlements.

The Daily previously revealed SmartCity was paid more than $80 million by the Federal Government in student loan funding from 2013-2015 and SmartCity accountants and lawyers had met with liquidators six months prior to SC Admin's collapse.

About 18 months before SC Admin's liquidation SmartCity paid almost $9 million in bonuses to shareholders and associated trusts who were mostly Spong family members and business associates.

The Daily has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission whether it will pursue SmartCity for the $80 million in Federal funding paid out.

The Federal Education Department has confirmed the de-registration has also ruled SmartCity out of accessing Federal funding for disabled apprentices (DAAWS funding) for the provision of tutorial assistance.

Jim Spong said he would evaluate over the coming weeks how to best use the "fantastic systems and resources" they'd produced to run SmartCity, and determine whether there was a future for a different type of business for SmartCity to move into.

"But personally I feel that it's time to start planning for retirement in the near future as I'll be reaching 65 this year. I would like to spend more time with my wife and grandchildren," he said.

He said they'd tried to support their "valued staff" in their own futures, and many had remained in the industry and were making a fantastic contribution from his reports.

"We wish them, and our prior students, all the best with their bright futures ahead of them," Mr Spong said.

Topics:  community education federal government registered training organisation registered training provider smartcity smartcity vocational college sunshine coast teaching training

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