The Federal Budget has sparked widespread anger as the voting public come to grips with the realities of the harsh measures being proposed to address an alleged budget crisis.
Students are major losers, with all educational sectors under attack including Gonski school funding, universities and TAFE.
The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector has seen at least $1.5 billion funding cuts, with indications that further changes are afoot over next 12 months. These will include changes to both the National Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement.
Cuts outlined in the Budget include $914.6 million over four years for Tools for your Trade (TFYT) and at least $1 billion in erasures to other programs designed to provide basic literacy and numeracy skills and up-skilling existing workers to “meet the needs of the modern workplace”.
Programs that have been abolished include the National Workforce Development Fund, Workplace English, Language and Literacy Program, Australian Apprenticeships Access Program, Accelerated Australian Apprenticeships Access Program, Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program, National Partnership Agreement on Training Places for Single Parents, Alternative Pathways Program, Apprenticeship to Business Owner Program, Productive Ageing through Community Education and Step into Skills Program.
Instead, students have been offered the Trade Support Loans Program worth just $439m over four years. This HECS-style loan scheme allows for $20,000 per apprentice and is restricted to skill shortages or “in demand” areas.
As well, an Industry Skills Fund worth $476 million over four years will, according to the Budget, “complement, not duplicate state programs”. This will be achieved by delivery of “industry defined skills [that] employees need to support industry to diversify, to become export orientated and boost productivity”.
Funding for the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Program will drop from $898,681 in 2013/14 each year to $421,124 by 2017/18, proposed by the previous government and upheld in this Budget.
For VET students and the under-30s unemployed this Budget has been devastating.