Hairdressing Cut May Leave Colleges Stranded

Hairdressing cut may leave colleges stranded

Sushi Das
The Age
December 11, 2008

HAIRDRESSING and cookery are expected to be removed from the list of occupational skills in short supply in Australia a move that would affect migration rules and have widespread ramifications for the international education industry.

Thousands of international students who complete courses in hairdressing and cookery can gain extra migration points towards applications for permanent residency because the two trades are currently included on the Migration Occupations in Demand List.

It is widely acknowledged in the international education industry that hairdressing and cookery are popular courses among international students because the extra migration points allow a “fast track” to permanent residency in Australia.

But the impact on training colleges nationwide is expected to be far-reaching, with possible job losses and business failures.

The removal of cookery and hairdressing could result in a significant drop in students seeking to enrol in such courses, leaving TAFE and private training colleges struggling to fill classes.

Colleges that offer hairdressing and cookery courses and only have international students on their books, are likely to be hardest hit as student numbers drop off.

Private training colleges, particularly in Victoria, have boomed in recent years on the back of demand for hairdressing and cookery courses from international students.

For the year to July, national training sector enrolments jumped 44% on the previous year, reflecting the popularity of private training colleges as lucrative businesses thriving on fees from international students.

In Victoria, colleges registered to teach international students cookery and hairdressing far outnumber any other state or territory.

These colleges offer 134 courses in hairdressing and 109 courses in cookery.

Research by Monash University demographer Bob Birrell last year found international student enrolments in cooking and hairdressing nearly tripled between 2004 and 2006.

In response to questions by The Age, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, said: “As has long been the case, the skilled migration program is monitored in light of the economic circumstances at the time. The Government has also been consulting business and industry about their future skills needs,” he said.

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training, which represents private training colleges, called on the Government to install appropriate transitional arrangements for students and colleges.

“We've got the risk of job losses and business failure in already difficult times,” said council spokesman Andrew Smith.

International education is a $13.9 billion industry in Australia.