With a new year well and truly underway, it’s clear that 2023 is set to be a big year of campaigning for the AEU. Your union is focused on continuing to improve the working lives of members through the TAFE teacher and dual sector agreements, and through ongoing negotiations in the disability sector. More broadly, we are campaigning for better funding across the public education system, and supporting the ‘Unions for Yes’ campaign to secure an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
A lot has been said about teacher shortages in schools, but we know that this is also a problem in the vocational education sector, where TAFEs cannot get the specialised and experienced staff they need. These shortages are affecting program offerings, and create significant workload challenges for our members.
The AEU has been pushing the Andrews government for investment in attraction and retention strategies across TAFE, schools and early childhood, as outlined in the AEU’s Ten-Year Plan for Staffing in Public Education. The government can no longer ignore shortages and ongoing concerns about future supply. They must act, with funded short and medium term initiatives that would provide the resources TAFEs need to educate and train the next generation of skilled workers and address the current industry-wide skill shortages.
The Albanese government’s first budget, in October 2022, announced that all states and territories had committed to an interim one-year National Skills Agreement. This agreement sets out the funding that state and federal governments provide for vocational education. It will deliver 180,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based vocational education places in 2023, with additional fee-free places delivered in 2024. The federal government has also committed to negotiating a long-term National Skills Agreement with states and territories.
This funding commitment is welcome – and stands in stark contrast to the Morrison government’s deliberate undermining of public TAFEs. However, as the recent Report on Government Services (RoGS) highlights, Victorian TAFEs are lagging badly behind when it comes to government support. Victoria is the lowest funded state per hour of VET delivery, $4.25 below the national average, even though our TAFEs deliver courses in areas that tend to cost more to run.
The Andrews government needs to act urgently. TAFE funding must increase to cover the actual cost of course delivery so that TAFEs can run the programs and courses that the Victorian community so desperately needs.
With our focus on working with and supporting members as we negotiate agreements for stand-alone TAFEs, dual sector, disability and AMES – including a focus on workload – and participating in the national Rebuild With TAFE and Voice campaigns, there is no more important time to build your sub-branch. Make sure you ask new colleagues to join the AEU and take part in actions throughout the year.
The strength of our union is built on our tens of thousands of members. When we stand together, we can drive change for the benefit of members and our students.