As a sacked TAFE teacher who had been teaching the Electrical Diploma for 20 years, I am deeply concerned about the future of the young generation.
When I completed my electrical apprenticeship 40 years ago, I was fortunate that I was able to sit for what is now called the TAFE Electrical Diploma, which was available at most colleges in NSW. These courses were designed to upskill tradesmen to technical officer; technician or project officer because the basic trade courses were insufficient for those roles.
While doing the course I was encouraged by the dedicated TAFE teachers to go on to university. The course gave me the skills, knowledge and desire to complete an Electrical Engineering degree at the University of NSW.
Historically, the state governments of the 1960s and even earlier in the 1880s realised the vital importance of having a skilled workforce and made engineering courses easily affordable, and available in most TAFE colleges in NSW. The colleges also encouraged people who left school early to go back to TAFE to be retrained or to complete their Higher School Certificate.
With the savage cuts to TAFE these courses are no longer available.
The implementation of the dumbed-down Mike Baird TAFE Smart and Skilled program has resulted in the Electrical Diploma course being discontinued, electrical apprentices being turned away from TAFE and the sacking of all part-time electrical TAFE teachers at St George and Ultimo TAFE colleges.
The legacy of the Baird Government will be that it destroyed TAFE in its bid to get private providers to take over the role of the colleges originally set up to educated the disadvantaged.
This is starkly demonstrated by the fact that the number of private providers able to offer HEC loans jumped from seven in 2008 to 247 last year. One private provider enrolled 38,213 students and only 2058 completed their course.
If we want to have an expanding economy in the 21st century we must increase productivity and this can only be achieved by having a highly-skilled, motivated and educated workforce.
Increasing TAFE fees, abolishing courses and offering inadequate training in the Smart and Skilled program is not the solution — especially as the current Federal Government seems hell-bent in making sure that only the wealthy can attain a university education.
Tony Morrissey taught at Ultimo College.