Liberal governments have an inexcusable record of neglect when it comes to supporting our essential public TAFE system.
Since taking office in 2013, the federal Coalition has cut $3 billion from vocational education, causing a dramatic drop in the number of courses and apprenticeships, driving down quality, and limiting access across Australia.
New data released in March highlights the impact of the Morrison government’s failure to support TAFE, with entrenched under-funding leading to excessive workloads for staff and greater uncertainty for students.
In the AEU’s latest State of our TAFEs survey, 65% of teachers report that their workload is unmanageable more than half of the time, with a similar percentage saying they have been forced to deliver the same content within shaved hours. As a result, 80% do not believe current students are receiving the same quality of education as they did two years ago.
AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe says the “damning” report shows the “enormous strain from a decade of funding cuts perpetrated by the Morrison government”.
Contestable funding has led to courses being cut, the closure of TAFE campuses, and a race to the bottom in terms of delivery hours.
In Victoria, despite recent investment by the state Andrews Labor government, TAFE institutes are still not funded at a rate that covers the basic cost of course delivery, let alone the additional support services needed for many students to complete their training.
Not only does TAFE help prepare students for future employment, as well as ensuring businesses have access to a highly trained workforce that helps address skills gaps, the sector also contributes an estimated $92.5 billion to our economy every year.
Despite being a central plank in Australia’s post-secondary options, the current contestable funding model means public TAFEs are still forced to compete with private providers for government funding. This has led to courses being cut, the closure of TAFE campuses, and a race to the bottom in terms of delivery hours.
As a federal election looms, there is an urgent need for all union members to get behind the AEU’s Rebuild with TAFE campaign. All state and federal governments must recognise that the competitive system of VET funding is broken, and develop a funding policy that supports high-quality, accessible public education for all Australians.
Albanese’s Labor Opposition has promised to introduce 465,000 free TAFE places, $50 million for new facilities and equipment, and a guaranteed 70% of total government VET funding for TAFE if elected. This gives voters a clear choice at the ballot box in May.