The federal government plans to increase the amount those studying aviation can borrow under the vocational education and training (VET) student loans scheme.
From January 2020, the lifetime loan limit is being increased from $104,440 to $150,000, the government announced on Monday.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the increased limit would help students complete the multiple aviation courses required to gain their commercial pilot’s licence and help “meet the aviation needs of tomorrow”.
“We need more people in aviation, particularly women, and are investing to help attract the skills we need for the future,” McCormack said in a statement.
“We’ve listened to the concerns from industry that the current combined lifetime loan limit of $104,440 doesn’t adequately cover the cost of training for the licences and ratings issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
“That’s why the cap will be lifted to the same level as courses for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.”
The VET student loans scheme can be used by those studying aviation courses at an approved provider, McCormack and Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaelia Cash said in a joint statement.
Further, statement noted the increased limit was one of the recommendations from a skills study conducted by an expert industry panel in 2018.
“The higher limit benefits tertiary students who will undertake or are currently undertaking an aviation course at diploma or advanced diploma level, and deferring their tuition fees through VSL,” the statement said.
“This will apply for training that leads to outcomes such as acquiring a CASA commercial pilot licence, instrument and multi-engine ratings.
An aviation skills and training report written by a panel of experts chaired by The Australian Aviation Associations Forum and published in July 2018 found Australia was experiencing a severe shortage of aviation personnel and urgent action was needed if the country was to avoid major disruptions.
The report said Australia did not have an aviation training system capable of meeting the requirements of the industry now, or in the years ahead.
It also noted the VET HELP loan limit – as it was then known – was not sufficient to provide student pilots with all of the licences and ratings required.
“It is recommended that increasing the FEE HELP Loan limit for aviation to $150,000 would permit more students to be able to complete the Flight Instructor Rating as well as either the agriculture rating for students wanting to stay in General Aviation or the Multi Crew Cooperation course for those wanting to continue to the airlines,” the report said.
The panel of experts comprised representatives from Aircraft Structural Contractors, Aviation Australia, Basair Aviation College, QantasLink, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, the Regional Express Flight Training Academy and Virgin Australia.
The Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF) chairman Jeff Boyd welcomed the increase in lifetime loan limit.
“This increase will now ensure that pilots will be able to complete their training with not only bare minimum qualifications, but relevant and employable qualifications thereby helping to ease Australia’s pilot shortage,” Boyd said in the ministers’ statement.