Australian National Skills Week highlights urgent need for more TAFE funding
In the framework of the Australian National Skills Week, held from 26 August – 1st September, educators urge the Federal Government to put a halt to the cuts in funding for technical and further education and the sector’s privatisation.
AEU: TAFE must remain the public provider of vocational education
National Skills Week, with this year’s theme ‘Real Skills for Real Careers’, is a chance to recognise the instrumental role the technical and further education (TAFE) sector plays in providing vocational education to hundreds of thousands of Australians each year. The week aims to emphasise the value of apprentices and trainees across Australia, as well as to raise the status of practical and vocational learning.
However, the Australian Education Union (AEU) notes that National Skills Week cannot be celebrated without considering the current plight of TAFE institutions, Australia’s world-class public vocational education provider.
The AEU warns that for six years the Morrison Coalition Government has engaged in a sustained campaign of deprioritising and defunding TAFE. Since coming to government in 2013, the Federal Coalition has cut $3 billion from TAFE and training and their dismissive approach to apprenticeships means that there are now 140,000 fewer apprentices than when they were elected. Meanwhile, in 2017 nearly $1.2 billion of public money was allocated by the Government directly to for-profit private providers.
For AEU, the complete lack of concern the Federal Coalition Government has for public vocational education is evident in their plans as announced in the 2019/20 federal budget: instead of reigning in private providers and rectifying the damage they have inflicted on the sector in recent years, the government announced plans to hand over what remains of the public sector by establishing “National Skills Organisations” to provide “modern and flexible alternatives to classroom based learning” and to “enhance the role of industry in designing training courses by establishing a national skills commission.”
AEU denounces the governmental drive to entirely privatise vocational education and devalue qualifications to fulfil only the narrow and specific needs of individual employers.
TAFE must remain the public provider of vocational education in Australia. AEU’s TAFE Manifesto demands that the Federal Government:
- Guarantee a minimum of 70 % government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
- Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
- Abandon the failed student loans experiment and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
- Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and build a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
- Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
- Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.
The education union aims to turn the National Skills Week into a wake-up call to the Morrison Government to reverse the fall in enrolments and the decline in funding for government-funded vocational education providers by reinstating TAFE as the central pillar of vocational education in Australia.
EI: The privatisation of vocational education in Australia has been an “abject failure”
For Angelo Gavrielatos, Director of the Education International (EI) Global Response to privatisation and commercialisation of and in education, “the evidence is overwhelming. The privatisation of vocational education in Australia has been an abject failure for students, teachers and their communities, failing to deliver on the needs of a changing economy and society. Vocational education must be returned to Australia’s preeminent public technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institution, TAFE”.
Professor Leesa Wheelahan of the University of Toronto focusses on TVET, capabilities and social justice.