Apprentices hobbled by cuts

Phill Chadwick and Rob Long

The new year has seen unprecedented pressure placed on TAFE management to work within the projected budget cuts of the Smart and Skilled policy, proposed to start in January 2015.

For example, the education year for electrical trade apprentices at Illawarra TAFE has been cut from 36 to 30 weeks of course delivery. Electrotechnology teachers are gravely concerned that the cuts will negatively impact on students’ learning, industry skills and safety standards, and course completions.

Federation is campaigning to have the decision reversed. Members are lobbying NSW Government, industry experts, employers, politicians and trade union representatives. A delegation of Federation members met with Illawarra Institute Director Di Murray to explain the negative consequences the cuts will have, and highlighted the safety concerns teachers hold for the students and the wider community.

Plumbing students at Mt Druitt TAFE are also facing cuts to course delivery. Attendance for the three-year course has been reduced to 36 weeks in years 1 and 2 and then only 18 weeks in year 3. Teachers are concerned that the increased workload for students to complete the course in a shorter time will have a negative impact on completion rates and skill retention.

First-year plumbing students will be further disadvantaged by the loss of integrated theory/practical lessons. Integrated lessons enable students to undertake hands-on practice of the theory instruction they have just received.

These are definitive examples of the resource allocation model (RAM) at its worst and Federation fears cutting of course attendance time will be to be rolled out to all trades in all colleges. Other examples of cuts at other colleges include cuts to course delivery locations and increased class sizes.

The campaign to Stop TAFE Cuts will continue and all members are encouraged join the campaign at If you have any further information about impact of these cuts to TAFE students, teachers or courses email them to

Phill Chadwick is TAFETA President and Rob Long is a TAFE Organiser.