All you need to know about how vocational education funding works in Tasmania

SUPPORT: Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Training, Karen Andrews, visits Glasgow Engineering in Launceston in February 2017. Picture: Scott Gelston
SUPPORT: Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Training, Karen Andrews, visits Glasgow Engineering in Launceston in February 2017. Picture: Scott Gelston

As The Examiner continues its campaign to secure the future of TasTAFE and encourage discussion about the VET sector in Tasmania, we break down the facts on how the training sector is funded right now.

What is vocational education and training (VET)?

Vocational education and training, or VET, is designed to deliver workplace and industry-specific skills.

VET covers a wide range of careers and industries, including trade and office work, retail, hospitality, construction, plumbing and automotive.

VET subjects are available to Year 11 and 12 students and are offered as separate certificate qualifications.

In Tasmania, the public provider for VET courses is TasTAFE.

However certificate qualifications are also available through private registered training organisations or RTOs.

There are 149 private RTOs operating in Tasmania as of April 2018.

The management of TasTAFE and the private RTOs in Tasmania is done at a national level by the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

ASQA ensures each RTO, including TasTAFE, is providing up-to-date industry certificate courses and sets national compliance regulation for the sector. 

Who is responsible for it?

Funding for VET is a shared responsibility between state, territory and Commonwealth governments. At a state level, VET falls under the Education portfolio, held by Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff.

At a federal level, VET falls under the Education portfolio, held by Simon Birmingham. However, the federal government also has an Assistant Minister for vocational education and skills Karen Andrews. 

How does the state government support VET?

Tasmanian Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff.

Tasmanian Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff.

The state government is the primary provider of funding for the VET sector and for TasTAFE in Tasmania.

At the recent state election, held in March, the government committed to providing TasTAFE with a guaranteed 70 per cent of the training budget.

It also committed to invest an additional $15.5 million over the next five years into TasTAFE “to build a stronger training system that supports more jobs.”

At the 2017-18 state budget, the government committed to $3.2 million over two years, in 2017-18 to improve the standards and reputation of TasTAFE’s Drysdale brand through the establishment of Drysdale as a Centre for Excellence.

The government has pledged to work with the tourism and hospitality sectors to prioritise the works required for Drysdale to operate as a hub for the training and development of staff in those sectors.

The Tasmanian Government has a target to increase the number of apprentices and trainees through small business grants and payroll tax rebates.

Funds of $17 million is provided for targeted payroll tax rebates for trainees, apprentices and youth employees. This payroll tax relief was recently extended to 2020 and will gradually be scaled back in 2021.

The state budget also has allocated $200,000 to assist TasTAFE’s involvement in a new international training college at Kangaroo Bay.

Other initiatives include:

  • implementation of phase 3 of the TasTAFE education architecture project
  • implementation of TasTAFE’s new learning management system CANVAS
  • continue to assist as TasTAFE develops its new organisational education strategy, aimed at creating a more holistic system of VET delivery in Tasmania
  • designing new program models for training delivery with a focus on key growth markets for Tasmania
  • developing a new mapping profile of vocational curriculum that seeks to increase flexibility and access to education and training for prospective and existing students.

How does the federal government support VET?

EDUCATION: Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten. Picture: Stefan Boscia

EDUCATION: Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten. Picture: Stefan Boscia

The Australian Government funds its own programs, which will amount to $1.2 billion in 2017-18.

The government also provides funding to state and territories for the operation of their training via agreements such as the national skills and workforce specific purpose payment (NSWSPP) and the national partnership agreements.

The national partnership agreement expired in June 2017 and has been replaced by the Skilling Australians Fund.

The Skilling Australians Fund is a four-year agreement. No state has yet to sign up to the fund but South Australia is expected to sign up.

The NSWSPP is about $1.5 billion per year and is associated with the national agreement on skills and workforce development.

States must spend the NSWSPP in the skills sector but they have flexibility in how they spend those funds.

Tasmania will receive $31.6 million through the NSWSPP in 2017-18.

What are people saying?

Penny Royal Adventures outdoor recreation guide Alice Edmunds is the living proof that not all people are destined to go to university.

She originally enrolled in an outdoor education degree at the University of Tasmania but the course wasn’t what she thought it would be.

“It was very theory-based and my idea of what it would be like was very different to the reality,” she said.

Ms Edmunds said all her discussions around future career pathways was “all about university.”

She said VET or TasTAFE was never presented to her as an option: “It [university] was the only way I knew how to get to where I wanted to go.”

Communication about VET pathways needs to improve, Ms Edmunds said.

“Uni is not for everyone, I want to be doing things, that’s how I learn.”

She said she felt more people were taking up the VET option than when she started but said more needed to be done to improve communication and lead more students to take up that option.

“90 per cent of the students in my VET class went on to get jobs directly as a result of the course,” she said.

Tasmanian Education Union TAFE vice-president Damian von Samorzewski said those managing the sector were “far removed from the coal face” and weren’t aware of some of the issues the public provider faces.

He said more needed to be done at a policy level, from all levels of government and industry to ensure the viability of not only TasTAFE but VET education in Tasmania and the country.

Community perception of VET also needed to change, Mr von Samorzewski said.

“We need to change the perception of TAFE as not only a stepping stone but an equal qualification.”

“We need to value the qualification in itself because those qualifications is what is keeping our economy and society moving forward.”

Private RTO operators  Sue Shegog and David Castle believe the degradation of the VET sector, not only in Tasmania but nationally, has occurred over a number of years, and they believe the federal government is to blame.

Learning Partners is a private registered training organisation that has operated in Launceston at Riverside for more than 20 years.

Mr Castle said while Learning Partners was, in a way, a competitor of TasTAFE, the organisation remained committed to building a collaborative approach to VET in Tasmania.

Mrs Shegog said she believed TasTAFE had an important role to play if the sector was to rebuild.

“We rely on TAFE to provide services in industries that we aren’t in,” she said.

“It’s a bigger picture than just us and them.”

What is needed from here?

The VET sector is funded by a variety of sources and works in partnership with both public and private providers.

Despite funding being available and Ministerial responsibilities being shared, industry stakeholders believe policy and legislative changes need to occur to secure the future of not only TasTAFE but the entire sector.

Steps need to be taken to ensure our public and private training providers can work in a collaborative and competitive way to address the declining apprentice and trainee numbers across the state.