National Skills Week highlights urgent need for more TAFE funding


27 August 2019

National Skills Week is a chance to recognise the instrumental role Australia’s TAFE sector plays in providing Vocational Education to hundreds of thousands of Australians each year.

The Week (August 26- September 1) celebrates Vocational Education and looks to emphasise the value of apprentices and trainees across Australia as well as raise the status of practical and vocational learning. The theme for National Skills Week 2019 is Real Skills for Real Careers.

However National Skills Week cannot be celebrated without considering the current plight of TAFE, Australia’s world-class public vocational education provider.

For six years the Federal Coalition Government has engaged in a sustained campaign of deprioritising and defunding TAFE. Since coming to government in 2013 the Federal Coalition has cut $3 billion from TAFE and training and their dismissive approach to apprenticeships means that there are now 140,000 fewer apprentices than when they were elected. Meanwhile, even following the VET FEE-HELP scandal, in 2017 nearly $1.2 billion of public money still flowed directly to for profit private providers.

The complete lack of concern the Federal Coalition government has for public vocational education is evident in their plans as announced in the 2019/20 Federal Budget. Instead of reigning in private providers and rectifying the incalculable damage they have inflicted on the sector in recent years, the government announced plans to hand over what remains of the public sector by establishing “National Skills Organisations” to provide “modern and flexible alternatives to classroom based learning” and to “enhance the role of industry in designing training courses by establishing a national skills commission.”

All of this is just euphuism for ramping up their drive to entirely privatise vocational education and to devalue qualifications to fulfill only the narrow and specific needs of individual employers.

The Morrison Coalition Government just isn’t concerned enough about the 25% fall in TAFE enrolments on their watch to even acknowledge the existence of TAFE anywhere in the budget, let alone to properly fund it.

TAFE must remain the public provider of vocational education in Australia. That is why the AEU’s TAFE Manifesto demands that the Federal Government:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

National Skills Week should be a wake-up call to the Morrison Government to reverse the fall in enrolments and decline in funding at government-funded vocational education providers by reinstating TAFE as the central pillar of vocational education in Australia.

For more information about National Skills Week, please go to: