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Forum to plot course to bolster TAFE
A national event on the future of TAFE is being planned by the Australian Education Union.
Federation’s Annual Conference delegates today endorsed Federation working with the Australian Education Union to organise the forum, which will involve TAFE members, academic researchers, TAFE management, social partners, other unions, employer groups, policy advisers and politicians.
The aim of the forum is to reinvigorate the campaign at a national, state and local level, they state in the Annual Conference decision on TAFE. Delegates want the list of issues to be examined by the forum to include:
- rebuilding the TAFE teaching profession — including through defending teaching and working conditions, teaching qualifications, professional development and remuneration
- promoting and rebuilding TAFE as an anchor institution in local communities — especially regional and rural areas.
Federation President Maurie Mulheron said the decline of funding to TAFE was a crisis for the entire community and a battle for all. “This impacts on the future of millions of Australians,” he said.
Mr Mulheron highlighted there are fewer people in vocational training this year — with public or private providers — than in 2012, when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) introduced contestable funding (where TAFE has to compete with private providers for government dollars).
“If there is any indication of the failure of ideology of the market, this has to be the prime example,” he said.
Damage to TAFE is being felt today as accelerating social disadvantage and inequality, skills shortages and a whole generation excluded from participation in society, the Annual Conference resolution on TAFE asserts.
An issues paper by John Buchanan et al, “Education, work and economic renewal: an issues paper prepared for the Australian Education Union” is quoted in the TAFE decision: “Only an innovative and responsive public sector (TAFE) can recognise, nurture and support public goods such as an occupational labour market and modern notions of vocation. A key challenge is to ensure the public sector builds its capability to help establish such social infrastructure.”
In NSW, overall funding to TAFE dropped 14.5 per cent to $1.52 billion between 2013 and 2017 — state government funding alone decreased by 24 per cent, the TAFE decision notes. In the same period, under the contestable funding model for government funding, allocation of public dollars to private, for-profit vocational education and training providers almost tripled, to $298 million. TAFE’s market share of the vocational education and training sector dropped from almost 87 per cent in 2008 to 74 per cent in 2017; in the meantime private providers’ share has increased from 9 per cent to 23 per cent. TAFE enrolments plummeted by 110,800 students (15 per cent) 2008-2017, despite NSW’s population increasing by 32 per cent.
— Kerri Carr
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