TAFE & Adult Provision Game, set, and match: Victorian government needs to match federal for TAFE funding

The Morrison government’s proposed National Skills Agreement was fiercely rejected by states and territories, so when the new federal Labor government was elected, they discarded the Morrison plan and started from scratch.

On 18 October 2023, the federal government released its new National Skills Agreement, which will invest billions of dollars in new funding for vocational education and training. The five-year agreement between federal, state and territory governments will commence from 1 January 2024, and could significantly strengthen the Australian vocational education sector if states and territories commit to lifting their funding in response to the federal government’s contribution. 

Despite being a Labor state for almost a decade, Victoria has the lowest vocational education funding in the country. The state government will need to commit to matching the federal government’s share if it wants to ensure that Victorian TAFEs and dual-sector universities have the funding they need to provide high-quality education and the resources and up-to-date facilities that put the students and teachers at the centre. That means providing a level of funding that would support full delivery of nominal hours, and class sizes that properly set up students for success.

The National Skills Agreement provides states and territories with access to additional Commonwealth funds of up to $3.7 billion over five years, taking the total Commonwealth investment in state and territory training systems to $12.6 billion over the life of the agreement. The agreement also commits to putting TAFE at the heart of vocational education and has reaffirmed the commitment of at least 70% of Commonwealth funding going directly to TAFE.

The agreement will deliver a national vocational education system that will provide high-quality and more accessible education. The federal government has promised to expand TAFEs capacity after a decade of neglect under the former Coalition government.

The plan contains up to $1.3 billion in additional Commonwealth funding to implement agreed reforms, including:

  • $325 million to establish nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence and strengthen collaboration between TAFEs, universities and industry 

  • $100 million to support, grow and retain a quality VET workforce

  • $155 million to establish a National TAFE Leadership Network to promote cutting edge curriculum 

  • $214 million for Closing the Gap initiatives to be designed in partnership with First Nations people and led by them

  • $250 million to improve VET completions, including women and others who face completion challenges

  • $142 million to improve foundation skills training capacity, quality and accessibility

  • $116 million to improve VET evidence and data.

This extra investment comes on top of the $414 million already committed for the delivery of 300,000 fee-free TAFE places from 2024.

The AEU welcomes the new agreement and the increase in TAFE funding that it provides. But, despite this boost, Victoria will remain the lowest funded TAFE system in the country until the Victorian government lifts its own investment. To maximise the financial benefits of this national plan, the state government must commit to matching the federal funding for Victorian TAFEs. This is the only way our TAFE system will be in a position to attract and retain the high-quality workforce needed to address the skills shortages across the state.

No quick fix to solving skills shortage

In trying to address the skills shortage, the Victorian Skills Authority launched its own skills plan for 2023–2024, just days after the National Skills Agreement was announced.

The aim of the Victorian Skills Plan is to help identify and deliver the education and skills training needed in Victoria, now and into the future.

Increased funding to support a National Skills Agreement is important. It is also crucial that the Victorian government ensures its state-based skills plan – which aims to broaden and strengthen the vocational education system and the teachers who support it – deals not only with the immediate needs of the system but also takes a longer term approach.

The AEU remains concerned about the lack of focus on the TAFE workforce, including shortages and working conditions, as they are vital to ensuring we have the skilled workforce needed in the broader community.

Read AEU Victoria’s press release in response to the new National Skills Agreement.

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