December 7, 2014

We need to secure the future of TAFE

By Tracey Escreet

TAFE has been so important to me throughout my life- and my career.

In 1983, at the age of 14, I commenced my apprenticeship with the State Rail Authority and studied ‘Painting and Decorating Trade Course’ at Granville TAFE until 1985. TAFE provided hands on practical experience in classes, as well as theory. I received an award for the Highest Pass for ‘Painting and Decorating Trade Course’ in 1984. In 1992, at the age of 25, I studied and did practical experience at Ultimo TAFE for ‘Signwriting Refresher’; which I needed for my employment with the Rozelle Hospital. I qualified for the award of ‘Statement of Attainment’ on completion. In 1996, at the age of 29, I studied and did practical experience at Ultimo TAFE (Sydney Institute of Technology) to learn ‘Graining and Marbling’ ; which I needed as I was self-employed after been made redundant with the closure of the Rozelle Hospital. I fulfilled the requirements for the Certificate in Graining and Marbling.

In 1997, at the age of 30, I was a casual TAFE teacher with Liverpool TAFE Outreach for 18 weeks. I tutored 18 women in an ‘Introduction to Painting and Decorating’ as part of Work Opportunities for Women at the Liverpool Women’s Resource Centre. The response to this course was overwhelming as all 18 places available were filled almost immediately. The course was VETAB approved and allowed women to pursue further education and gain credits towards a Certificate in Painting and Decorating.

Currently, at the age of 47 and after 33 years of manual labour, I have decided to make use of my learned and lived experiences to pursue a career in Community Services to assist people with barriers in life to achieve their full potential. I am currently studying ‘Community Services Cert IV’ and ‘Skills for Work & Vocational Pathways’ at Bega TAFE. It is has been essential for me to have the assistance of the TAFE teachers with the foundation skills of reading, writing and computer skills to achieve my full potential and this has been proven with my marks in class.

I am a single, low income earner and TAFE is affordable now with concessions. However I will no longer able to afford this course next year with the NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled program proposal, as I will have a Vocational Education and Training debt of $9,470 to pay off. We need to stop the significant TAFE course fees increases in NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled program, which is due to be rolled out in early 2015.

TAFE course student fees will be unaffordable or courses unavailable for people:

  • with low incomes
  • living in rural areas
  • from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • with learning barriers
  • from migrant backgrounds
  • with disabilities
  • women returning to the workforce
  • single parents and their children
  • in rehabilitation programs in prisons

We all should be entitled to an affordable quality education whether we have just left school, need assistance to return to the workforce, to upgrade our education and skills to change careers (like myself), to have a second chance to learn and ultimately to earn a decent income and be included in our society.

At the moment we are all struggling to pay mortgages, rent, bills for essential services and now the NSW government is going to add to our anxiety of another huge bill for essential education. How are we able to be positive, productive citizens and to help ourselves and the country to move forward? I believe we will go backwards with HUGE government budget blowouts, as the other states who have made similar reforms prove. We all need TAFE throughout our careers, especially if we have to continuously upgrade our skills to enable us to work until we are 70 years of age.

We all need to ask if private providers are going to support students with learning difficulties or disabilities with their studies to enable them to complete their courses and arrange the hours of workplace hands on learning which is essential for quality training. Using private providers will push up costs, deliver short courses for profit and not quality training. Therefore we need to secure the future of TAFE as the leading provider of vocational education and training.