Like many sectors over the past few years, TAFE has experienced significant change in terms of how it operates as a result of the pandemic. While many TAFE teachers reached the end of 2022 with a feeling of exhaustion, this year has brought a renewed sense of energy and drive at the prospect of teacher-led change.
With last year’s announcements from federal and state Labor governments regarding skills-based training and vocational learning, we can see that TAFE is getting the attention it deserves. Following years of neglect from a federal Liberal government, Labor has taken a new direction in TAFE, as it should.
In 2022, the new Albanese Labor government committed to providing access to fee-free TAFE with a $1.2 billion plan focused on rebuilding industries hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19, including education, care and community services. They announced 465,000 fee-free places, including 45,000 new TAFE places. Additionally, they committed $50 million to a TAFE Technology Fund aimed at improving IT facilities, workshops and laboratories.
When TAFE members stand together and share their voices, governments are forced to listen – and to act.
The Victorian government had already invested in free TAFE courses but promised at the end of 2022 to remove previous eligibility criteria, enabling those with higher levels of qualifications to return to study via a training pathway.
We have achieved this investment as a result of long-term lobbying by AEU members. There is still much more for governments to do – however, it has set our sector on a more positive path than in previous decades.
When TAFE members stand together and share their voices, governments are forced to listen – and to act. With negotiations for a new TAFE multi-employer agreement currently in progress, it is more important than ever that we band together and call for the changes we need to see in your conditions at work.
We are participating in weekly four-hour meetings with the Victorian TAFE Association (which formally represents the TAFE institutes) to discuss the key issues identified by members through the AEU log of claims.
Too often, teachers are not front of mind when governments and employers make changes and commitments to the education system. But without teachers, the system doesn’t work. And when workers are unionised, they have the power to make a real difference to their working lives and to the learning experience of their students.
TAFE teachers are the backbone of TAFE. Attend your annual general meeting, get along to your local workplace union meetings, and ask your non-member colleagues to join the AEU.
The more members we have, the stronger our collective voice in campaigning for a better deal. Together, we can do it.