The Canberra Institute of Technology should be forced to review hundreds of electrical trade graduates it took on following the sudden closure of private training provider ElectroSkills, an inquiry has found.
Complaints about the training of apprentice electricians have dogged the CIT in recent years, with repeated warnings that graduates lacked basic skills and were being given inadequate training.
Those concerns have been aired by industry bodies such as the ACT Electrotechnology Energy Advisory Board and the National Electrical and Communications Association, as well as a former CIT trainer and assessor, Ian Dunstan.
Fears were expressed that standards had been lowered to allow more apprentices to be pushed through the course, prompting warnings over serious safety risks.
But an audit of part of the electrotechnology course, conducted by the Australian Skills Quality Authority in November, found it to be compliant with the vocational education and training quality framework.
Concerns about CIT's electrotechnology course have been the focus of the Legislative Assembly's education and training committee this year, which has conducted an inquiry into vocational education.
That inquiry also examined the closure of ElectroSkills, a large private registered training organisation, in 2013.
ElectroSkills closed its doors after failing a compliance audit, leaving between 250 to 300 apprentices in the lurch.
They were taken on by CIT to finish their training – a process that raised its own concerns about whether the cohort had properly met the required competencies.
The final report of the vocational education inquiry, released this month, called on Higher Education and Training Minister Meegan Fitzharris to compel CIT to review each of those graduates to ensure they had met the requirements of the course.
"The committee recommends that, following the review ... should any deficiencies be identified, CIT ensure a catch-up or complementary course of training is completed by these graduates," the inquiry's report stated.
Despite the audit of CIT, the committee remained concerned that:
"In a dangerous technical course – public and industry confidence is retained following the difficult circumstances that followed the unexpected and unplanned amalgamation of two electrotechnology courses."
The committee criticised the "perceived resistance" of CIT in responding to concerns, and recommended the minister should "not be satisfied with CIT's response".
Ms Fitzharris said the government would formally respond to the report in August, when the Assembly next sits.
But she said CIT had a proud record of "delivering quality education to apprentices".
"Apprenticeship training is crucial to ensuring we have the skilled workers necessary for economic growth here in Canberra," Ms Fitzharris said.
"Electrotechnology is a key industry for the ACT and will be increasingly so with the ACT government's focus on renewable energy. We want to make sure apprentices have the skills the industry requires," she said.
"CIT has a proud record of delivering quality education to apprentices in the ACT and takes its obligations to provide the highest standard of training seriously to ensure it provides local industries with qualified skilled workers."
The inquiry has also recommended that CIT put in place a contingency plan for integrating large numbers of students into its courses in the future.
In January, the concerns with CIT prompted the electrical industry to urge the government to establish a new trainer for electricians in Canberra.
National Electrical and Communications Association chief executive Suresh Manickam also urged for more audits and tests of electrical products to ensure they were meeting safety standards.