The ACT government has quietly cut subsidies for vocational education programs, placing courses in jeopardy just weeks before they were due to start.
The peak body for independent training providers fears the changes, which it said were made without consultation, could worsen a skills shortage in Canberra and threaten the long-term viability of the sector.
The government, through Skills Canberra, provides subsidies to help registered training organisations deliver courses.
Last week, it released details on the value of subsidies per student for courses in 2020.
Analysis of the figures by Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia, which represents private training providers, found that subsidies had been reduced for at least 30 courses.
In some cases, the government has axed the subsidy entirely.
Subsidies for new students in early childhood education, mental heath, community services, beauty therapy, plumbing and business courses have been cut by between 14 and 67 per cent, according to the analysis.
Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia chief executive Troy Williams said the government had not consulted with his organisation or individual providers before the new subsidy amounts were published on January 14. They came into effect on January 15.
"In an environment in which many employers across the territory are struggling to find skilled workers, it is stunning that the government has made such significant reductions to the support provided to students looking to vocational education and training to gain new skills," he said.
"The territory's independent vocational education and training sector has a strong reputation for providing students and their employers with quality outcomes. The cuts to student support announced by the government makes it difficult for these providers to survive over the long-term."
An ACT government spokesman said the subsidies had been reduced due to increased demand for the courses.
The spokesman said it would continue to adjust the scheme to "accommodate changing demand and different priorities for skills and training". The new subsidy amounts would not apply to current students.
The spokesman said the government provided close to $17 million a year in subsidies under the scheme.
"The ACT government is committed to supporting Canberrans to gain the skills, education and training they need to get good jobs and contribute to our economy," the spokesman said.
But Mr Williams said providers could be forced to cancel courses due to the cuts. Those decisions would have to be made in a "matter of weeks", he said.
"[If courses are cut] the worst case scenario is that people decide not to study at all," he said.
"There is already a skills shortage in the ACT. And and if this happens, in three, four, five year's time, it will be far worse."
Mr Williams said an "emergency meeting" of private training providers was being arranged.
"There's a great deal of concern about how the sector will support students who are looking forward to embarking on studies that will help them along in their career," he said.