On 13 August, we celebrated National TAFE Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our public TAFE system and to remind governments of the value TAFE provides to individuals, local communities and the Australian economy.
This year, COVID-19 restrictions meant that we couldn’t celebrate together here in Victoria. However, hundreds of TAFE supporters took to social media to post photos, videos and comments about why they believe TAFE is so important. The #NationalTAFEday hashtag trended on Twitter all day, providing a timely chance to put a spotlight on the vital role of TAFE in providing the kinds of skills we will sorely need as we rebuild the economy in the months and years ahead. Australia’s post-COVID-19 response must start with revitalising TAFE as the trusted anchor of vocational education, backed by solid government investment by the Morrison government in its October federal budget.
As with every sector, the AEU’s key focus is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of teachers and students during the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to provide quality education. Stage 4 has resulted in much clearer instructions to TAFEs regarding what is permitted, ironically resolving many of the issues we had with some institutes trying to find ways around departmental requirements under stage 3, from a lack of protective equipment and social distancing, to requiring the delivery of face-to face theory classes.
TAFEs have now moved to online learning, except for critical teaching, research and ancillary activities that cannot be delivered remotely. Workplaces that remain open will be required by law to have a COVID Safe Plan. In rural and regional areas still under
stage 3 restrictions, on-site attendance will be permitted for practical teaching, research and other activities that can’t be conducted remotely or online. The exception is for non-school senior secondary providers offering VCE and VCAL, which must be delivered remotely, apart from mandatory on-site assessments. Regional TAFEs have also become much more compliant at following stage 3 requirements for fear of a spike in cases.
We remain concerned about the lack of reporting by TAFEs of positive COVID cases. There have now been confirmed cases at almost all metro TAFEs and several in the regions. However, some institutes were not reporting this unless the whole campus had to close. Thankfully, after much union lobbying and the use of OHS PINs, TAFEs are now required to report all positive cases to DET, DHHS and WorkSafe.
In other news, we have collated feedback from TAFE members to inform our submission to the state Macklin review into post-secondary education. Also, after almost two years of discussions, the AEU and AMES have agreed to a two-year rollover of the current AMES agreement, achieving a 2.5% wage increase each year.