The future of Australia’s TAFE system - which has provided vocational education for millions of Australian workers - is under significant threat due to a dire lack of government funding.
The TAFE system has taught generations of workers how to keep the country running. However the TAFE system itself now needs repair after governments cut funding by more than 15% between 2007 and 2016.
Today is National TAFE Day, with colleges and students across the country recognising the day with morning teas and BBQs. However, AEU federal TAFE secretary Pat Forward said the entire TAFE system is at risk unless funding is urgently injected back into the sector.
“Government funding cuts have left the TAFE sector perilously close to collapse,” Forward said. “Under the Turnbull government, funding has been slashed and support for the system has collapsed.
“The TAFE and vocational education system remains the worst-funded education sector in the country, with funding having been cut by more than 15% between 2007 and 2016,” Ms Forward said.
“Malcolm Turnbull has overseen the debacle of the VET FEE HELP scheme, allowing it to escalate so badly that experts estimate more than $7 billion has been expended on the scheme, a significant proportion of which will never be recovered.
“The damage inflicted on the sector, particularly as a result of underfunding and attempts to privatise, has eroded the viability of colleges and undermined confidence in the system. Enrolments in the sector have declined alarmingly in the last four years.”
To mark this year's National TAFE Day, the AEU has launched its ‘TAFE Manifesto’, a blueprint which outlines a path to fixing Australia’s TAFE system.
The AEU TAFE Manifesto calls on the federal government to:
1. Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. No public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
2. Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
3. Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
4. Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
5. Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
6. Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.
“More people have been through TAFE and vocational training than have attended university in Australia,” Forward said. “The TAFE sector is responsible for providing vocational education to some of the most important professions in the country, including nurses, child-care workers, hairdressers, aged care and disability workers and electricians.
“Unless governments address the crisis in the TAFE and vocational education sector as a matter of urgency, the consequences for society and the economy – and for the next generation of young people – will be dire."