March 21, 2015

Vision for TAFE

By Ryan Park

On March 28, NSW residents will go to the polls in what will be an election where the future of TAFE as we know it will be on the line.

The Liberal\National Government has set out a clear agenda that involves massive fee increases for courses, over 1000 TAFE staff to be slashed and no certainty in ongoing funding for TAFE Institutes across NSW.

Ironically it is called Smart and Skilled. The reality is it is Dumb and Dumber.

NSW Labor also has a clear agenda and one that is in stark contrast to what Mike Baird is proposing.

A Labor Government in NSW will abolish Smart and Skilled if elected in March.

We have committed to freeze student fees to 2014 levels that will ensure a students bank balance doesn’t determine their ability to access vocational education in NSW.

Finally and perhaps most importantly to secure the future of TAFE is NSW Labor’s commitment to cap contestable funding.

No more than 30% will be contestable under a Labor Government.

The first commitment of its kind across Australia

Compare this to the 70% that is contestable in Victoria and has decimated their TAFE system.

Over the last 12 months I have visited TAFE campuses right across NSW.

Whilst the communities are different there is a common message across them all and that is TAFE is too valuable to see destroyed like this.

Too valuable to students looking to get a second chance education or to retrain and acquire skills needed to enter a new industry as our economy changes.

Too valuable to staff and teachers who dedicate themselves to ensuring that business, industry and government get a workforce that is highly skilled and innovative.

Too valuable to the communities, particularly those in regional and rural areas where TAFE is a key driver of the local economy and offers high quality training to those in areas outside the major cities.

There is not a skerrick of evidence that the race to privatise our TAFE system will be good for anyone.

Even the Business Council of Australia said recently and I quote:

“What we don’t want is a market where the public providers are left with residual element that private providers don’t want to operate in”.

TAFE in NSW will not survive another four years of cuts to courses, slashing of staff and providing no ongoing certainty of funding to operate.

March 28 will be more than just a general election.

It is shaping up as a referendum on the future of training and education in Australia’s most populated state. If you value TAFE, if you want TAFE to be protected and enhanced, Labor is your only choice.