PM’s VET funding boost must be invested in TAFE

Only by investing in TAFE can the Morrison government provide the skills that Australia will need to create jobs, opportunities and recover from the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AEU deputy federal president Meredith Peace said that it was essential that today’s announcement of the combined $1 billion federal, state and territory JobTrainer subsidy increase to boost Vocational Education and Training (VET) is focused on delivering high-quality education through public TAFE. 

“TAFE is Australia’s respected quality provider of vocational education. It has the established infrastructure, community and industry links to put this funding to best use and to provide the opportunity and high-quality qualifications to deliver the skills Australia needs to recover from COVID-19,” Ms Peace said. 

“TAFE is the only institution that has the infrastructure, the workforce and the trusted reputation to meet the challenges of rebuilding the economy.

“We need to invest in TAFE as the anchor institution of vocational education, to ensure that it is the centrepiece of the effort to rebuild Australia’s economy.” 

Since 2013, the Federal Coalition has:
•    cut $3 billion from vocational education 
•    overseen a drop in apprenticeship numbers, with 140,000 fewer apprentices now than when elected
•    cut a further $325.8 million in funding from TAFE and vocational education budgets in 2019.

Today’s JobTrainer funding announcement will only replace approximately one-third of what has been cut by Coalition governments since 2013.

The AEU’s 2020 State of our TAFEs report, which surveyed of over 14,000 TAFE staff, showed that more than three-quarters of TAFE staff had considered leaving the system in the past three years, due to the impact of the billions of dollars of Commonwealth and state and territory budget cuts.

The survey also revealed major funding-related issues with workload, resourcing, and lack of staff support.

“Australia’s TAFE teachers stand ready to help the nation get back on its feet, but the government needs to back them with the funding and ongoing resources the sector needs, Ms Peace said.

Ms Peace said that JobTrainer funding should not go to private VET providers, which prioritise making a profit over providing high-quality educational opportunities.

“History has shown that private providers do not provide the skilled and highly qualified workforce to meet the needs of a changing economy” Ms Peace said.

“Questionable course quality, and the aftermath of the billion-dollar VET-FEE HELP rorts make private for-profit vocational education providers unsuitable for the vital task of rebuilding the economy.

“Making this new funding contestable would only open the sector up to further rorting.

“JobTrainer funding would be better directed to helping apprentices, those who have lost work and other workers seeking to retrain to gain high-quality, nationally-recognised qualifications at TAFE, rather than funding the narrow, short-term and disjointed training favoured by private VET providers,” Ms Peace said.

Today’s announcement of $1.5 billion for a 50% apprentice wage subsidy to employers is welcome but offers no ongoing security once apprentices have completed their training. 

“This subsidy should be contingent on employers committing to maintaining the employment of apprentices for at least twelve months from the conclusion of their apprenticeship,” Ms Peace said.

“TAFE offers high-quality vocational education at all levels, with nationally accredited programs, a highly qualified and experienced workforce, long-standing community and industry links and campuses across Australia, and it has the trust and respect of the community and employers.”

“A strong, fully-funded TAFE sector accessible to all must be at the centre of the Federal government’s response to the economic challenges facing Australia, currently and post-COVID-19,” Ms Peace said.

“The Morrison Government must invest in TAFE so that TAFE can do what it does best--create the workforce that will build the Australian economy.”



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