$1.5bn VET fund ‘a farce’

The federal Budget has cut spending on vocational education by almost 10 per cent, with further cuts to follow in the Budget forward estimates, and the proposal to part-fund apprentices and trainees with a new visa levy fund is a “farce”, the Australian Education Union (AEU) said.

“Australians trust public TAFEs but instead of putting money in skills programs that are designed and proven to deliver real skills for real Australians [Prime Minister Malcolm] Turnbull continues his attack on the sector, stripping millions of dollars kicking off from 1 July,” AEU TAFE Secretary said.

Ms Forward said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply, on the other hand, gave apprentices and vocational education students hope through a commitment to divert to TAFE at least two-thirds of funding earmarked for private VET trainers.

“For years, our TAFE system has been attacked with millions ripped out of Australia’s most trusted public training provider and siphoned into private training colleges, many of which leave students without the skills they need to get to work,” Ms Forward said.

Ms Forward said the Turnbull government intended to slash $177 million from TAFE funding.

She said the federal government’s proposal to have a new National Partnership Skilling Australians Fund as a substitute for the current National Partnership Agreement for Skills Reform lacked detail and indicated that some of the money could line the pockets of private training providers rather than assist apprentices.

The new $1.5 billion skills fund aims to deliver an additional 300,000 apprentices and trainees over the next four years, giving priority to skills in occupations in high demand. States will be expected to match federal funding, will include $350 million from the government’s recently announced reform of the 457 visa program covering migrant workers.

“How has the government reached the number of ‘300,000 new apprentices’ and how can it guarantee the income from visa levies will be maintained at levels to fund these new apprentice numbers? It can’t,” Ms Forward said.

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