TAFE & Adult Provision More needed to address TAFE shortages

Last year, the Victorian government set up a teaching scholarship program aimed at attracting new teachers to TAFE. Unfortunately, the program, designed to have 200 industry professionals paid to undertake the TAE (Training and Assessment Education) Certificate IV, and provide $10,000 retention payments for teachers who remained in TAFE teaching for two years, was destined to fail. 

As most teachers know, while the TAE Certificate IV may help people to unpack a training package, it does not properly prepare an industry professional to deliver in front of a class of students. 

Rather than issuing time-limited retention payments to new teachers, we needed a thorough evaluation of why qualified professionals are leaving the sector.

The certificate IV qualification is the lowest paid classification in Victorian TAFE agreements – an entry-level qualification – indicating that someone with this qualification still requires support. Crucially, this is not a pay point that will attract and retain industry professionals in the current employment market.

The level of qualification on offer for the scholarship needed to be higher, and the qualification itself should have been longer. It needed to include teaching methodology, curriculum design and development, and a mentoring, support, and supervision component. An agreed definition of this supervision ought to have been established prior to the program’s rollout.

The state government is presenting the program as a success simply because it met the targeted 200 enrolments. However, the teaching and learning experience has not been examined, and it is abundantly clear that there are many significant issues across the design and rollout of the program.

We have reports of class sizes in nursing increasing from 20 to 60 students per class. That is a 200% increase.

Further, the design of any program intended to attract teachers needs to look at retention issues for those already in the system. Rather than issuing time-limited retention payments to new teachers, we needed a thorough evaluation of why qualified professionals are leaving the sector.

When experienced teachers leave the system, the result is a significant loss of skills. Major investment into the current workforce, and into the recruitment and development of new high-quality TAFE and VE teachers, is what is needed – not band-aid fixes.

Vocational education teachers are increasingly expected to do more with less. One of the many examples of this is the fact that class sizes have increased dramatically. This is particularly the case in the female-dominated teaching areas and industries.

We have reports of class sizes in nursing increasing from 20 to 60 students per class. That is a 200% increase. The effects of this growth are twofold: it massively intensifies the workload of affected teachers, and it negatively affects their students’ learning experience.

Not enough is being done to address the current teacher shortage. The Victorian government needs to act now to attract industry professionals to TAFE, but it is equally important that the government prioritises finding ways to stop years of experience being lost. Existing teachers are walking away from teaching, and our TAFEs and our students are missing out.

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