It’s always a good idea for society to invest in the skills and capabilities of its future workforce. But right now, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, it’s an absolute no-brainer. First, investing in Australia’s world-renowned TAFE institutes creates jobs for instructors and support staff immediately – when Australia needs every job it can get. Second, hundreds of thousands of young people don’t know how they’ll get a foothold in a pandemic-shocked labour market. So using this time, when jobs are scarce, to enroll in TAFE and gather additional skills is a perfect fit. The same logic applies to older workers who have been displaced by the pandemic. Third, by creating a more skilled and productive workforce, and relieving skills shortages that hold back thousands of businesses and employers, stronger TAFEs will contribute enormously to future GDP and income growth.
In short, repairing and expanding our TAFE system should be a central component of any plan to rebuild Australia’s economy after COVID-19. I’d like to see expanded TAFE funding, an expansion of free TAFE courses across the country, the dedication of at least 70% of public VET funding to the TAFEs, and a reinvigoration of our badly-fraying apprenticeship system – with TAFEs at the centre. There’s no other institution that can play the same role as a solid, trusted, capable anchor of the overall vocational education system. We need healthy TAFEs more than ever. Now is the time to start making that happen!
Dr. Jim Stanford
Economist and Director
Centre for Future Work