Vocational education appears to have become one of the battlegrounds on which the Tasmanian state election will be waged and won (or lost).
The news from Premier Peter Gutwein that his government had plans to turn TasTAFE, Tasmania's public vocational education provider, into a government business enterprise was met with mixed feelings.
TASSIE VOTES 2021:
However, the Opposition, and the Australian Education Union Tasmania, have slammed the recommendations made by the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council to transform TasTAFE into a GBE.
They claim the changes are akin to privatisation, and while the government disagrees, there is still room for more clarification for the voting public.
A fundamental problem with vocational education in Australia, and it's not a unique problem to Tasmania, is that VET has been chronically underfunded and undervalued.
Those actions have eroded the public's confidence and have led to a common sentiment that a career in vocational education does not hold the same value as a university degree. So, on the surface the focus on the role of TasTAFE and VET is welcome, because it's been lacking in the past.
However, Tasmania has a lot to lose in this debate because we rely on vocational education careers and industries arguably more than other states.
Before and after the pandemic, our economy's building blocks included construction, aged care/nursing, agriculture, tourism, and hospitality. The bulk of the education and training for these sectors come from TasTAFE and other private RTOs.
However, what is not yet evident in the government's or the Opposition's plans is how it will address longstanding issues such as chronic teacher shortages (even when the former announces it will attract 100 new teachers to the sector.
TasTAFE relies on people from industry to fill teacher positions, but it's often the case that industry offers a far more attractive remuneration package than TasTAFE can offer.
So far, both sides of the fence have a TasTAFE policy, but what's lacking is the "how", - which is crucial for voters. We wait with bated breath to hear more details from all sides of the election fence.