Campus upgrades, student accommodation and virtual learning form the bulk of the Tasmanian Liberals' $98 million cash splash promised for Tasmania's public training provider.
The Liberals' TasTAFE policy was announced by Peter Gutwein and Jeremy Rockliff while on the campaign trail on the North-West on Monday.
Under the Liberals' plan, nearly $100 million will be spent on upgrading TasTAFE campuses, student accommodation and the establishment of a virtual campus to connect rural and regional Tasmanians to the vocational education provider.
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TasTAFE has been the centre of political debate since the announcement of the final report from the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council.
A recommendation from PESRAC was that the government transform TasTAFE into a government business enterprise, which has sparked privatisation fears from the education union and teachers, and the Labor Party.
Mr Gutwein said Tasmania's skill base had been "high against the rest of the nation" and further investment in TasTAFE was critical.
"Having recruited as of last week four new apprentices it is very important for me to have faith in TasTAFE and the sooner we can get them on the ground the better," he said.
Key components of the TasTAFE funding announcement include:
- 100 extra TasTAFE teachers to train more young Tasmanians
- $45 million for critical facility and equipment upgrades, new buildings and new student accommodation
- $16 million to increase access for rural and regional students
Opposition Leader Rebecca White has slammed the government's plan for TasTAFE, saying it's akin to privatisation.
Instead, the Labor Party has committed to implementing a free TAFE policy.
The policy, which has not yet been revealed in detail, has been estimated to cost $10 million in the first year.
Labor Skills spokesperson Michelle O'Byrne said Labor had a plan to rebuilt TasTAFE from the ground up.
"Over four years we will invest $22.5 million to grow the TAFE teaching workforce by nearly 20 per-cent, along with investing a further $40 million to help provide free training in areas of critical skills shortages," she said.
"It includes eighty scholarships for people from industry to become qualified TAFE teachers as well as funding to support twenty current TAFE teachers each year to spend time back in the industry to keep their skills up to date and relevant."
Labor will also mandate that at least 20 per cent of labour on government building and construction contracts must be undertaken by apprentices and trainees.
Campus upgrades form a large bulk of the Liberal's funding promises on TasTAFE with each campus in each region to be upgraded with infrastructure and technology.
The Alanvale campus in the North will receive a $10 million upgrade, including an expansion of the health hub to deliver training in alcohol, drugs, youth and mental health as part of a new Centre of Excellence.
The upgrades also include expansion and purchase of new equipment for electrotechnology, metal and fabrication equipment.
Funding for these upgrades is in addition to a $4 million funding commitment for campus upgrades at Alanvale, which were announced in 2019 following the government's decision to sell of the Launceston CBD campuses.
In the North-West, $12 million will be invested for student accommodation at Burnie, a trade training simulation centre at Burnie and major upgrades to the Devonport campus.
The student accommodation is a new facet of the Liberals' plan to help bring rural and regional students to TasTAFE.
Student accommodation at Burnie will house 25 students. Devonport's campus will receive upgrades to the trade training simulation centre, upgrades to nursing, plumbing, fabrication and spray painting areas.
Southern TasTAFE campuses will receive $7 million to build student accommodation for the Trades and Water Centre at Clarence.
Another new component of the policy is $16 million for a regional TAFE facilities development and transition fund for additional upgrades to benefit regional rural students.
The party will also invest $10 million to deliver the TasTAFE virtual campus and increase access for rural and regional students.
Mr Gutwein said 100 new teachers would be recruited for TasTAFE and the government, if re-elected, would look to match industry rates with teacher rates to address the issue of recruitment and retention.
He also again hosed down suggestions that TasTAFE would be privatised, saying it would always remain in public hands.
"We want TasTAFE to be a government business, a not for profit government business but it will remain in public hands."
Australian Education Union State Manager Brian Wightman said the PESRAC policy adopted by the Liberal Party couldn't be clearer.
"The Liberal plan creates a privatised TasTAFE that makes decisions on hiring and firing teachers as well as facilities and infrastructure," he said.
"Under the Liberal Party TAFE privatisation plan, not only are the decisions out of their hands, they would be made in the interests of profits, not what is best for Tasmania."
Beardwood Constructions director Luke Beardwood was pleased by the changes to TasTAFE promised by the Liberal Party.
"Given the amount of work in the industry we rely heavily on TAFE training and so it is very welcoming for me to see the investment in Tafe's future and securing that high trade quality for Tasmanians," he said.
"There is quite a pipeline of work in the industry at the moment so we are employing further people and putting faith in the industry which is what we need in Tasmania."
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