Victoria is currently engaged in discussions with the federal Morrison government over the new National Skills Agreement (NSA), which will replace the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD). This agreement contains commitments on funding and policy by state and federal governments, so it is critically important for the future of TAFE.
The federal government recently instituted a review of the NASWD by the Productivity Commission. The Commission’s report indicated that the current funding arrangements were not fit for purpose, and claimed that the vocational education and training (VET) system was not in crisis. It recommended that the federal government continue to develop a more competitive VET market, and – despite the success of Victoria’s Free TAFE program – criticised state governments for offering free courses on the basis that this distorts contestable market conditions!
We are alarmed by reports that the federal government is exerting pressure on the states to agree to funding and policy commitments underpinned by its view that competition drives improvements in provision and access. We know from previous experience that this will only further undermine quality and the central role of public TAFE in the sector. The financial viability of TAFE relies on strong commitments to funding VET adequately – and that means funding that meets the actual cost of training.
The Andrews government has introduced many positive changes in TAFE; however, funding remains the key area of neglect, leaving many institutes in a vulnerable position. The Macklin Report indicated that TAFE needed to be at the centre of our VET sector, leading the way on delivering high-quality programs. Victoria needs to push back against the Morrison government’s agenda, which will see TAFEs continuing to fight for scraps on an unfair playing field.
AEU warns against outcomes-based funding for AMEP
In its response to a national review of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), the AEU has expressed serious concerns about a proposed outcomes-based funding model, which would tie the majority of funding to a student’s completion of a unit or certificate.
Based on the same flawed logic that led to the widespread rorting of the VET system, history shows the government’s proposed model would fail on every metric it proposes to address – making the program less accessible, creating lower quality outcomes and diminishing participation. It would again open the door to private providers seeking to fast-track ‘student outcomes’ in the pursuit of money, and risks narrowing the curriculum and degrading the high-quality skills and knowledge provided by qualified AMEP teachers. Instead, the most effective way to incentivise outcomes is to provide adequate funding and qualified teachers to meet student needs.