A critical shortage of teachers is making it difficult for young Tasmanians to access vocational training, despite millions in federal and state cash funding thousands of fee-free TAFE courses, a parliamentary committee heard on Tuesday.
The top bosses of vocational training provider TasTAFE admitted to the Legislative Council's government business committee that they lacked the teachers to run courses needed in every region of the state.
TasTAFE chairman Tim Gardner said the constraints on the availability of teachers meant some courses could not be run in some regions.
"From time to time our ability to deliver the same courses in each region is challenging for us to keep the teaching staff up," he said.
"We may need to consolidate from time to time, have something in one part of the state and not all of them, just to deal with the constraints of having teachers available.
"We always seek the best outcomes we can, but at times we are forced to do that," Mr Gardner said.
Chief executive officer Grant Dreher said Tasmania lacked the infrastructure and population to run courses in every major region.
In response to a question from Pembroke MLC Luke Edmunds, Mr Dreher said no TasTAFE courses were presently unavailable due to a shortage of teachers.
But a quick scan of the company's website showed that 20 of its 184 courses were listed as having 'no attendance options available'.
Some course areas seemed to be more affected than others, with eight of the 28 courses in Tourism, Hospitality and Food listed as unavailable.
There were also often sparse options for potential students based in the north or north-west, with dozens of courses listing Hobart as the only venue option.
Skills and Training Minister Felix Ellis said efforts were being made to recruit more teachers, and he said the net number of teachers had increased by 46 since 2021.
He said the government had promised to raise net teacher numbers by 100 by the end of the current parliament.
Mr Gardner said TasTAFE's teacher recruitment efforts were being hindered by the tight labour market conditions.
"We are recruiting in middle of one of the most difficult employment markets for this generation, and we are competing with industry for people to teach industry," he said.
Teachers unions however have claimed that comparatively low pay and backtracking on workers' conditions is making it much harder for the company to recruit and retain staff.
TasTAFE has been locked in negotiations over new enterprise bargains for its staff for months.
Australian Education Union Tasmanian branch president David Genford said the government and TasTAFE management had broken promises that no employees would be worse off under 2021 reforms that transferred the training organisation from the state service to a corporate entity owned by the state.
"We have seen nothing but cuts and broken promises," Mr Genford said.
"A new General Staff Agreement, devised by TasTAFE, contains a litany of cuts to employment conditions risking the prospects for students and employers as poorer working conditions worsen existing problems with retaining and recruiting staff."
Both the federal and state governments have been trying to boost training amid a skills shortage that some employer groups say is holding back the state's economy.