New social policy needed to tackle TAFE crisis

20 October 2017

New social policy articulating the role of TAFE is needed to tackle a crisis driven by deep funding cuts, a freefall in enrolments, massive staff losses and the erosion of TAFE by private, for-profit providers, a conference in Sydney will hear today.

The future of public TAFE institutions – new social policy will feature Australian and international experts, including Associate Professor Leesa Wheelahan of the University of Toronto, Dr Jim Stanford, Director for the Centre of Future Work at the Australia Institute, and Professor John Buchanan, Head of the Discipline of Business Analytics at Sydney University.

‘We need sound public policy for TAFE institutions that rebuilds their broader social role allowing them to meet the needs of young people and their communities as well as the needs of industry. A well-resourced public TAFE system is the lynchpin of that policy,’ said the Federal TAFE Secretary for the Australian Education Union, Pat Forward, today.

‘TAFE is in crisis across Australia with student numbers dropping by more than 25 per cent since 2012, combined with devastating job losses across the country:


TAFE job losses

% of workforce










South Australia



‘The last ten years have also seen funding cuts of 25 per cent. While the funding guarantee announced by Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in his Budget reply speech would be a positive first step towards rebuilding the sector, we need government policy that values and acknowledges TAFE as a public institution vital to building a better society.

‘TAFE connects young people with local industries where they can respond to existing and emerging skill needs. The development of social policy to underpin TAFE’s role needs to reflect its crucial role in communities, and in supporting local industries,’ Forward concluded.

New research by international expert Professor Leesa Wheelahan will be presented at the conclusion of the conference.

The future of public TAFE institutions – new social policy will be presented by the Australian Education Union in partnership with the John Cain Foundation on Friday 20 October 2017 at the NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre, 33 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, NSW.

Media comment is available in advance by arrangement, and will also be available at the conference in the morning break (11.45am–12.05pm).

Media Contact: Darren Lewin-Hill 0418 288 104