TAFE must be front and centre of Labor’s skills focus

30 October 2019

Labor’s continued commitment to address Australia’s skills crisis and strengthen the ­vocational education and training sector is welcome news to a sector currently suffering from huge budget cuts and lack of investment from the Morrison Government.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe welcomed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement, saying that it was vital that TAFE remained at the heart of a strong, public vocational education sector in Australia.

“We welcome Labor’s commitment to revitalising the vocational education sector, but that must be backed up with funding,” Ms Haythorpe said. “A healthy TAFE-led vocational education sector is an essential part of fixing Australia’s moribund economy and of providing high-quality vocational education to hundreds of thousands of people in both cities and regional and rural areas.”

“Labor knows that the road back to economic prosperity and opportunity is dependent on TAFE being at the heart of a strong, public vocational education sector,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“By contrast, the Morrison Government has been nothing short of a disaster for TAFE and for vocational education. TAFE funding cuts have had a devastating impact on our students, our communities and our TAFE staff.”

“Since being in government the Federal Coalition has overseen 140,000 fewer apprentices now than when it was elected, $3 billion cut from vocational education, and a decline in enrolments in vocational education and training,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Government’s focus on industry over TAFE shows a complete abrogation of its responsibility to ensure that Australia has a strong, public TAFE system providing opportunity for high-quality education to skill or reskill our workforce.”

Ms Haythorpe also welcomed Mr Albanese’s announcement of “Jobs and Skills Australia”, which he described as a collaborative model to guide investment in human capital.

“There is an urgent need for a considered and rigorous plan for investment into public education and VET in Australia. The Morrison Government is too busy lining the pockets of profit-seeking private training providers to worry about what is best for everybody else.”

“Recently we have seen the Prime Minister strip $4 billion in tertiary sector capital funding from the Education Investment Fund, and fail to spend nearly $1 billion in funding allocated for TAFE and training programs,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Prime Minister’s National Skill Commission also gives industry free rein over VET qualification design and furthers his government’s privatisation agenda while failing to provide a viable place for TAFE in providing vocation education.”

“By contrast, we saw Labor go to the last election committing to invest $1 billion investment in TAFE and apprentices to help revitalise the public vocational education sector in Australia,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Labor’s election guarantee that at least two out of every three dollars of public funding would go to public TAFE was the right policy to help end the skills crisis in Australia.”

“Labor’s additional commitment to hold a National Inquiry into Post-Secondary Education, in stark contrast to the Morrison Government’s short-term, politically-driven, industry-based focus of the Steven Joyce review, is widely supported across the sector and would ensure our vocational education system is ready to face the future,” Ms Haythorpe said.

The AEU has called for:

1. A guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. No public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.

2. A restoration of funding to rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.

3. The abandonment of the failed student loans experiment, and cancelation of the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.

4. Re-investment in the TAFE teaching workforce and development of a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.

5. Development of a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.

6. Support for a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“The Morrison Government has failed the fairness test when it comes to public education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE needs to be the heart of a strong, public vocational education sector in Australia.”