As a state with a growing population and a stronger economy, it's arguable that Tasmania relies on vocational education as much or more than other states.
Tasmania's vocational education system has its challenges, which are well-documented, but a state government submission into an inquiry into the sector has laid the blame at the feet of public perception.
It says scandals over some private sector training providers ripping off students and associated difficulties with student debt had "compounded the pre-existing perception of VET as a lower value choice".
The submission said that continued to affect career choices of school leavers and existing workers and contributed to skills shortages in various sectors and occupations. The commission is reviewing the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development at the request of the federal government. While it may be true that many people in the community don't value vocational education as equal to university education, laying the blame of the challenges the sector faces at the feet of perception is a simplistic answer to a complex problem.
Teacher recruitment issues and cancelled classes have been common complaints about TasTAFE, Tasmania's vocational education provider, and while change is coming in the form of a $4 million renovation of its Alanvale campus in the North, along with increased funding to student programs and systems, there is still more work to be done.
Vocational education across the country is funded jointly by the state and federal governments, through a national skills agreement and it is interesting to note that the VET system across the country is experiencing similar issues, it is by no means a Tasmanian problem.
However, a strong VET sector is key to Tasmania's growing economy, as it grapples with a housing crisis and construction boom, along with growth in key sectors such as nursing and tourism. Changes at a federal level will allow changes to flow at a state level, so it's heartening that this inquiry is being conducted but while information gathering is integral, it's vital that this leads to action in the form of policy responses to the issue.