Recently the light has been shone on the misdoings of TasTAFE management, and rightly so. But now we must look to the future, and give TAFE the recognition it deserves, as the anchor for the vocational education system in Tasmania.
The state government needs to focus on viewing TasTAFE as an educational institution that exists to support and serve students seeking alternative education options. To have an effective TAFE, we need to focus on matching the students’ needs with the immediate needs of employers and the community.
While it may seem obvious, we should first focus on the needs and requirements of the student, yet sadly in recent times this has not been the case. Instead the government has been kowtowing to the needs and concerns of employers. This has created problems due to the mismatch of skills, and poor labour outcomes for both students and employers.
Locally, the state government has been supporting private for-profit Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) instead of investing those funds in TAFE. The justification used in supporting for-profit RTOs instead of TasTAFE is that apparently TasTAFE is ‘unable to service a sector’.
We need to recognise the unique potential that TAFE has as a public institution, that doesn’t exist for profit, but instead exists to serve the community.
Universities are now beginning to offer VET courses as well. However, funding received by universities far outweighs what the VET sector receives. The 2018 TAFE funding report shows VET funding has decreased from $5.9 billion in 2005/6 to $5.7b in 2015/16 while universities have seen their funding rise over the same period from $17b to $25.9b.
TasTAFE success in training Tasmanian apprentices is the envy of other states and territories. We have the highest completion rates in the country while employer satisfaction rates are well above what other states experience. To ensure we see an increase in apprentice numbers, employers need to be better supported with genuine incentives for employing apprentices.
Funding provided to TasTAFE to deliver apprentice programs needs to be increased in order to continue delivering high quality education. The recent cuts to TAFE has meant TAFE management has mandated (unofficially) that all programs should be delivered using less than 60 per cent of the nominal delivery hours.
Cuts to delivery hours means reducing the face-to-face delivery of programs, so apprentices spend less time being provided the underpinning skills and knowledge required by industry.
Placing TasTAFE at the centre of VET in Tasmania allows us to link local institutions with community and social partners. This means that they can develop local solutions that support sustainable social and economic development within local communities. This is what TasTAFE does best; it allows students to learn in their community so that they can then become contributors to their community.
There are significant issues facing TAFE currently, and now more than ever it is essential that we support our invaluable TAFE institutions and their employees and thus the students. TAFE expects better from our government and the public deserve to have a well-resourced public TAFE system that meets the needs of students, their communities as well as the needs of industry.
- Simon Bailey is the Australian Education Union Tasmania’s TAFE division president