When it comes to vocational education, federal Labor has given Australian voters a clear choice at the ballot box, with Opposition leader Anthony Albanese promising 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. Labor’s skills policy, announced on 5 December, heeds the AEU’s long-standing calls for the restoration of funding and support for TAFE, culminating in our #RebuildWithTAFE campaign launched earlier this year.
Australia has a globally recognised and respected TAFE system, but it remains under threat while Liberal governments continue to undermine public provision of vocational education and training (VET). Since taking office in 2013, the federal Coalition has cut $3 billion from TAFE, and prioritised opportunities for the private sector to receive public money to deliver for-profit training.
“Forcing TasTAFE to operate like a business is code for job cuts, course cuts and fee hikes.”
In yet more evidence of the wider Liberal Party agenda, the Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein recently announced plans to turn TasTAFE into a “government business enterprise”. Already, the Tasmanian government has refused to rule out campus closures.
The contestable funding system – forcing TAFE to compete with private businesses for government support – has led to a boom in the number of registered training organisations (RTOs) accessing taxpayers’ money to run courses for profit, driving down quality and access across the VET sector. The policy has forced more and more students into the under-regulated private market, which offers none of the safeguards provided by public TAFEs to ensure students get the support and high-quality teaching needed to gain real skills that meet the needs of industry and lead to secure, meaningful work.
Last year, a report from the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work found that TAFEs play a vital role in the economy, contributing more than $92.5 billion a year. A well-resourced TAFE system has positive flow-on effects for students, local communities, employers and our national economy. With so many campuses across Australia, TAFE is perfectly placed to educate the workforce we need to address skills shortages and support our economic recovery.
In Victoria, the Andrews government has invested heavily in TAFE, but funding levels still don’t meet the cost of course provision, leaving too many of our TAFEs in a precarious financial position.
The AEU will continue to fight moves to privatise our vocational education sector. Rebuild with TAFE is calling on governments across Australia to direct a minimum of 70% of funding to public TAFEs; restore and rebuild the TAFE system; and develop a capital investment strategy. Join the campaign at rebuildwithtafe.org.au.