Premier 'very proud' of work in VET sector

Rob Long
TAFE Organiser

Premier Mike Baird

Premier Mike Baird is “very proud” about what his government is doing with TAFE, State Parliament heard on October 15.

“What the Government is accomplishing in the TAFE sector and the VET sector more broadly, is something of which we are very proud … very proud,” he said in response to a question without notice about job losses at Western Sydney TAFE.

The Government’s Smart and Skilled policy has seen thousands of TAFE students paying increased fees and incurring debt and teachers and staff continue to lose their jobs.

The history of this government’s TAFE cuts began in September 2012 with the then premier O’Farrell announced a major budget cut for the Department of Education of $1.7 billion over four years.

The government announced 800 TAFE teaching and administrative/support positions would be abolished.

Now three years into the cuts, the Baird Government has made redundant more than 2500 TAFE teachers, managers and support staff, with hundreds more part time casual teachers losing all or the majority of their work.

TAFE students and teachers suffer cuts to courses, reduced teaching delivery hours and the threat of colleges to be sold.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on October 15 that Minister Barilaro refuses to admit that Smart and Skilled fee hikes for students is the cause of TAFE enrolments plummeting this year. However, leaked documents from the Western Sydney Institute’s Foundation Studies review claim the main reason for the decline in student enrolments in is the introduction of student fees for programs previously fee free.

Western Sydney Institute is the latest TAFE institute to implement redundancies for teachers and support staff. At least 16 reviews are impacting on teachers in all educational faculties and support services. More than 87 teaching positions are under threat with more announcements expected in the coming weeks.

The privatisation attack continues across TAFE NSW institutes. Illawarra and South Western Sydney have completed the implementation of their redundancies from semester 1. Hunter, New England, and Western institutes are finalising plans for further job cuts. North Sydney and Western Sydney institutes will finalise plans for further job cuts by Christmas. Since July, Federation has received correspondence from Riverina and Sydney institutes for plans to cut more permanent jobs.

The Stop TAFE Cuts campaign continues to gain support from a wide range of political, community and local organisations. Members are encouraged to campaign and log on to www.stoptafecuts.com.au.

VET investment is being 'milked for profit'

Small gains won in TAFE

After vocal protests from students, teachers and communities over the impacts of the Smart and Skilled policy, the NSW Government has announced several changes.

The policy, designed to create a contestable market for vocational education and training (VET) funding and leading to TAFE funding cuts, has resulted in higher student fees, increased student debt, cuts to courses and teachers losing their jobs. Recently, Minister for Skills, Regional Development and Small Business John Barilaro announced:

  • traineeships course fees capped at $1000 for 2016
  • students with a Certificate IV or higher will be eligible to access courses up to Certificate III level at the subsidised rate from 2016
  • in 2016 all eligible students with a disability and eligible students that are dependants of disability support pension recipients will be exempt from fees for any qualification on the NSW skills list.

Unfortunately, these band-aid remedies do not address the continued federal and state government defunding of NSW TAFE or the undermining of the credibility of the VET sector, caused by poor-quality private for-profit VET companies.

Australian Education Union Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward wrote for the Stop TAFE Cuts blog (July 28): “The activities of the private for-profit VET sector have undermined trust, confidence and damaged the reputation of the whole VET sector. Thousands of qualifications have been withdrawn and the quality and usefulness of thousands more called into question. The National VET Regulator has admitted that they can no longer be certain about the quality of VET qualifications, or even whether students hold the competencies that their qualifications attest to.”

The funding crisis caused by the huge waste of government funding subsidising low quality private for-profit colleges is a critical problem.

In TAFE in NSW there is huge pressure on teachers to do more with less, impacting on quality and impacting on teacher morale.

TAFE teachers have always been the backbone of quality vocational education. TAFE teacher working conditions have always attracted high quality teachers leading to quality teaching and learning in NSW.

Given the Baird Government’s Smart and Skilled policy, the campaign for quality vocational teaching is more important than at any point over the past 50 years.

Federation will continue the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign to ensure that TAFE teachers’ working conditions are maintained to attract and retain the best TAFE teachers to increase teaching quality and students learning.