QUESTIONS: The SmartCity office at Maroochydore's First Ave.
QUESTIONS: The SmartCity office at Maroochydore's First Ave. Sunshine Coast Daily

College staff facing a bleak Christmas with job uncertainty

EIGHT days away from Christmas and hundreds of staff are in limbo with the future of SmartCity Vocational College under a cloud.

Staff of the college received emails from the college saying that SC Admin Pty Ltd - a company directed by James Spong - could be wound up as a result of changes to the vocational education industry affecting cashflow.

Employees, who have asked to remain anonymous, say they've been told to take either unpaid or paid leave over the Christmas period.

A SmartCity Facebook page posted a message earlier this week saying campuses would reopen on January 23.

This has left staff baffled about their future.

Despite numerous requests for comment, SmartCity, which runs campuses across Australia including a number in south-east Queensland, failed to respond to the Daily's questions.

A Federal Department of Education spokeswoman said the department was not aware of the college permanently closing, but was aware of "some possible staff lay-offs in entities associated with SmartCity Vocational College Pty Ltd".

"We have no idea what's going on," one south-east Queensland campus staffer said, puzzled by why he and other staff had been frozen out of all emails.

"If we're on holidays why are they shutting down our emails?"

The staffer said he knew of other colleagues who were moving house, unsure if they could afford to remain where they were living.

He said they'd been paid this week, but was unsure what payments would be made to the 300-plus staff moving forward.

He said trainers were "stressing" for students who'd been calling trainers unsure of where it left their training programs.

When questioned by the Daily, a SmartCity manager told the Daily she was unaware of any closure or sackings, but understood an office relocation was happening.

Mr Spong, who has an address at Parrearra, was unable to provide comment when the Daily spoke with him this week while SmartCity CEO and former University of the Sunshine Coast student Glenn Spong, who has an address at Alexandra Headland, has been unable to be contacted.

Glenn Spong's LinkedIn and Facebook pages were disabled yesterday.

An Australian Skills Quality Authority spokesman said SmartCity had applied for permission to teach overseas students in August.

As part of the authority's assessment of that application an audit on SmartCity was carried out in November.

ASQA had also audited SmartCity in 2015, as one of 21 targeted audits of training providers approved to take part in the Federal Government's VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The spokesman said SmartCity had been assessed as being compliant with the requirements of the 2015 audit, but because of "issues identified during the audit and the commitments made by SmartCity to address these issues", ASQA had imposed additional data reporting and assessment retention conditions on the Coast providers' registration.

The spokesman said ASQA was currently auditing SmartCity and the audit was "well-advanced" but not yet finished, but the spokesman pointed out SmartCity was not subject to any other ASQA sanctions or regulatory decisions at present.

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