TAFE & Adult Provision Positive reforms need funding

At the AEU TAP Conference in October, keynote speaker Gayle Tierney, Minister for Skills and Higher Education, explained the key changes the Andrews government has made to the departmental structures overseeing VET and TAFE. These changes were informed by the government’s review, Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy, led by former Labor minister Jenny Macklin, which recommended a more collaborative structure for Victoria’s TAFE system.

The key initial task for the Victorian Skills Authority (VSA), an independent entity reporting to the Skills Minister, is the development of the state’s first annual Victorian Skills Plan. Unions will have a strong voice on the VSA Advisory Board, with Luke Hilakari, Secretary of Trades Hall, and Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary of the ANMF, along with myself, all appointed to the board.

The newly created Office of TAFE Coordination and Delivery (OTCD) in the Department of Education and Training (DET) will be critical to the success of these reforms. The AEU has long been pressing the need not only for a more collaborative VET sector, but also a more unified TAFE system. This would significantly benefit students, giving them the ability to find the right course, at the right location, and to enable industries to find local, qualified employees.

The OTCD will oversee coordinated delivery of high-quality, collaborative training, and offer policy advice on public provision. DET has outlined that this will be achieved by driving reform, collaboration and coordination across the network regarding assets, workforce strategy, shared services, governance, performance and accountability, finances, and responding to the Victorian Skills Plan.

These reforms will not succeed unless government addresses the current inadequate funding levels.

While this is all positive, these reforms will not succeed unless government addresses the current inadequate funding levels. The AEU will also be working to ensure that the voice of the teaching profession is clearly considered. TAFE members are committed to delivering high-quality education for their students, and they need to be legitimately included in conversations about any changes or opportunities for improvement. Without this, the government and DET risk introducing hollow reforms, students will miss out on opportunities to develop the skills they need, and industry will struggle to find the requisite skilled workforce.

This is also tied to the need for greater investment from the Morrison government, which continues to fail TAFE and instead pursue its privatisation agenda. By contrast, Federal Labor has promised 465,000 free TAFE places, $50 million for new facilities and equipment, and a guaranteed 70% of total government funding for TAFE if elected in 2022. This will rebuild and restore TAFE as the anchor institution of vocational education – and create life-changing opportunities for students. Placing TAFE at the centre of the federal election debate, Labor’s commitments give voters a clear choice at the ballot box. Help spread the word: rebuildwithtafe.org.au.

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