Is the tide turning in TAFE's favour?

Kerri Carr

Several state governments have shown support for their TAFE systems as the Federal Government soldiers on with a vision for fully contestable vocational education and training funding.

NSW Skills Minister John Barilaro told The Australian (April 22) he did not support 100 per cent contestability: “While I hesitate to use the word, a degree of protectionism may be in order so we don’t put a valuable public asset at risk.”

The article states: “Mr Barilaro said TAFE’s infrastructure and salary costs made it impossible for it to compete on an equal footing with private colleges. 'They might be able to in 10 years, but they can’t now,' he said.”

Additionally, prior to the NSW election in March, the ALP promised to 30 per cent cap on contestable vocational education and training funds.

South Australia’s new training and jobs strategy has attracted the wrath of Federal Assistant Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham: “In 2012 about 74 per cent of training in SA was contestable, but under this new model around 90 per cent of new training places are reserved exclusively for the public provider” (media release, May 29).

The South Australian government has announced it would subsidise 81,000 vocational training places in 2015-16: TAFE SA will provide 46,000 of 51,000 new places and of the 30,000 continuing places 16,000 will be delivered by private providers.

The Australian (May 29) reported Acting Premier Jack Snelling said: “We need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is spent where it’s needed most and we need to make sure our training dollar is being appropriately targeted … and they may be best offered by TAFE.”

South Australia’s Skills Minister Gail Gago said: “TAFE SA has an important role in vocational education. So we are supporting TAFE SA while it transitions to more innovative and flexible training provisions that better respond to community and industry needs and is more sustainable in a competitive market” (media release, May 21).

Queensland Skills Minister Yvette D’Ath told The Australian (February 25) the previous state government’s decision to make public training funds 100 per cent contestable would be reversed.

The Palaszczuk Government has committed to “restoring TAFE Queensland as the premier provider of vocational education and training”. This includes repealing legislation to ensure TAFE Queensland has priority access to state-owned training facilities.

The Victorian Government has asked the current independent VET Funding Review to recommend alternative VET funding models and settings that “build a strong and responsive public TAFE sector”.

Australian Education Union Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward said circumstances were different 12 months ago and that the changes were due to the strong campaigning efforts of TAFE supporters.

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