I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Damn Shame

Last night I went to dinner with a bunch of people and this topic came up. It irritates me so much that I've decided to blog about it.

First, the background info. In Australia, local students pay for university/training college via a scheme called HECS. Basically, it's a cheap(ish) to get tertiary education. International students pay full-fees, or in other words, a hell of a lot of money to attend the very same school/classes that the local students do. It should also be noted that getting Permanent Residency in Australia is a) highly desirable and b) highly difficult to obtain. Ergo, there are loads of international students who come to Australia to complete higher education, in the (often valid, sometimes vain) hope that this new qualification will increase their chances of achieving PR. It should also be noted that there are several professions for which Australia has a skills shortage (cookery being one of them). Therefore if you complete a course in one of these 'in demand' areas, your chances of getting your PR are increased. The other thing to note is that international students are far more desirable, because they pay an enormous amount of money for the same product. So potentially, they are providing already underfunded institutions with a much needed cash injection.

And that's where it all becomes a mess. The end result is that you often end up with a huge demand for places in the 'hot' courses. The places in those courses get taken up with full-fee paying students - who are doing it for the PR, not for the love of the subjects - and at the end of the day they don't stay in the profession for which they are trained. The people who would truly undertake the training for career purposes have a difficult time getting into the courses. The increased demand on the teaching staff and resources means an increase in cost to run the actual course, which in turn means a need to recruit more full-fee paying students. It's a vicious, hideous cycle - and one of the unfortunate side effects of this is that the in-demand careers do not get filled by the people trained to fill them, and the attitude of the people doing these courses is often pretty terrible.

Let me give you an example. In my current culinary group (note, at my level there is something like 15 groups, in which there are 15 people, in which the ratio is a maximum of 3 locals to 12 internationals) there are only 2 international students who have any intention of working as chefs. The remaining 11 are doing it for the PR. Seriously. It's not something they hide - it's openly talked about. This sucks for a number of reasons. Firstly, several of them would really make good chefs...but that's not going to happen. Secondly, the skills shortage in Australia will just stay as it is. Thirdly, as these students (all nice people) are not really there for the training, they are just going through the motions and it SHOWS in the way they behave. Care factor, shall we say, is not really there. Last week I saw several of them filling water bottles from the white wine cask in the kitchen. As in, the COOKING wine. When I expressed some shock, I was laughed at and told it was going on for weeks and that several people were "in on it." Then one of them asked me if I knew where the school laundry was - so that he could steal some chef coats. Then someone else told me that in the clean-up area there were a bunch of tools (wooden spoons, whisks, etc) that were "for the taking."

This makes me sick. Is it the attitude of everyone? Of course not. Is it just an international student issue? Of course not - where you come from has nothing to do with whether you steal or not. At the end of the day, though, we are filling the halls of Australia's higher education institutions with a bunch of people who don't want to be there. This is coming at a huge cost - to the quality of the education, the reputation of the school and the resources available to the people who DO want to be there. As someone who CHOSE this profession - at great personal and financial risk and sacrifice - I find myself mouth agape at some of the above actions, and frankly also somewhat offended that they are ruining the "honour" (as trite as that sounds) of the profession.

So if you were me - what would you do? Simply ignore their behaviour and concentrate on my own goals? Report them to the instructors? I must admit that I am at a loss. I have no long term solution for the situation of the college in general, and no short term solution for the continued thieving and inappropriate behaviour I witness nearly every time I go to school. Both situations anger me and sadden me in equal measures.


kitchen hand said...

Professionally, your hands are tied in relation to the PR issue. It's an issue for the institution.

I lectured in another industry at a tertiary institution and found a similar situation.

Theft is an entirely different issue and should be dealt with swiftly and severely.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Thanks for the reply, kitchen hand. I will do something about it, I'm just not sure when/how. The other sad attitude I've come across is the "but we pay so much for this course we deserve it" ... as though somehow the thievery is justified because of the amount of course fees they pay. *sigh*

I also previously worked in tertiary education (in IT, a previous "demand" career) - and the attitude was the same there only slightly less depressing because most of them DID go onto IT careers.

Thanks again for the input.


Weinraub Family said...

I would say something. Theft is not right, and I don't care if they are paying out the nose for classes. They knew that going in. I am sure it is no diffence in what they would spend at an American University (since the cost here is OUTRAGEOUS). If these people are doing this, they are not the type of people that Australia would want as PR.

Good luck, I don't envy your situation.