There have been immense challenges for TAFE teachers over the past year. Delivering courses remotely, as well as managing the flexibility required to deliver practical components on-site, was no mean feat. It’s a credit to our members that they were able to maintain high-quality delivery to students throughout 2020 and early 2021.
The importance of TAFE has been recognised in the Macklin review into ‘Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy’. The final report, released in February, identifies the damage caused by the market-driven, contestable funding model currently in place in the vocational education and training (VET) sector – at the expense of students, taxpayers and the economy. It recommends creating a ‘Quality TAFE Network’ – much like the AEU’s ‘Unified TAFE’ proposal – as the leading force in vocational education (more details on page 8).
Free TAFE and other state government investment has been essential, but it is not yet enough to ‘save TAFE’ as Premier Andrews has pledged to do. Macklin’s recommendations should pave the way for more positive reforms in Victoria’s VET sector, but this will rely on the backing of the state government. We eagerly await the Premier’s response to the review.
New TAFE campaign launched in Canberra
On 17 February, AEU representatives from across Australia gathered at Parliament House in Canberra to launch a new campaign, #RebuildwithTAFE. We are calling on state and federal governments to properly fund TAFE and maximise its potential to assist with the economic rebuild, address the apprentice shortage, reduce youth unemployment and provide career pathways for all Australians.
The federal Coalition government has cut $3 billion in funding from vocational education since 2013 and pursued a relentless privatisation agenda. As AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said at the launch, TAFE is a hugely valuable asset being grossly neglected by federal and many state governments.
“We are launching the Rebuild with TAFE campaign because we’re sick of governments and politicians putting TAFE last and letting a critical part of Australia’s economy and education sector waste away,” said Haythorpe.
TAFE is perfectly positioned to provide the skills and knowledge that leads to real jobs – whether for school leavers, people who have lost jobs during COVID-19, or those seeking to retrain or upskill. We know TAFE has changed the lives of millions of Australians. One in three Victorians cite a VET qualification as their highest level of learning, and research shows that TAFE is highly valued in the community. In particular, disadvantaged groups and regional communities depend on TAFE to access the job market.
We are urging AEU members to support the campaign by signing up at rebuildwithTAFE.org.au. The possibility of an early federal election makes this a perfect time for members from all sectors to join us in pressuring government to invest in a sector that is central to a strong and sustainable public education system.