NSW Vocational Education and Training Review

We need all teachers to make a submission  

The union welcomes the State Government’s Review into NSW vocational education and training (VET), an opportunity to rebuild TAFE NSW. 

The Review’s Terms of Reference cover the critical issues to effectively review the failed Smart and Skilled contestable funding model of the previous government.  

Federation’s written submission will reflect our long-standing commitment to a high-quality, well-resourced and trusted TAFE sector. However, we need all TAFE teachers, support staff, students (past, present and future), employers and other community members to make a submission so that the Review panel understands the broad support for TAFE in its role as the pre-eminent, quality public provider of vocational education in NSW. 

We need help to tell the panel what is needed to ensure that TAFE can return to being the highly regarded public education institution that for decades has supported individuals, communities and employers across NSW.  

The panel is also seeking feedback on VET in schools. Therefore, Federation encourages all members in schools to also make a submission to the Review, particularly those who are familiar with examples of delivery modes that have resulted in positive outcomes for students and communities. 

To assist members to make their own individual submissions, workplace submissions or association submissions, Federation has developed a submission guide (below) that outlines the Review’s terms of reference and the questions raised in the panel’s Discussion Paper

You might also find The Future of Vocational Education and Training (VET): Public Schools and TAFE decision from Annual Conference and Federation’s TAFE Position Statement helpful.

Submission guide

Submissions close Friday 24 November at 11:59 pm. 

Points to raise in your submission

In your submission, you are encouraged (where relevant to your work) to:

  • describe your experiences with teaching high school VET students
  • describe teaching and learning experiences through the lens of students
  • describe how to maximise your relationship with your community through TAFE
  • describe how to maximise your relationship with industry / employers through TAFE
  • describe how to maximise your relationship with VET teaching in high schools
  • describe how to maximise student outcomes through working with TAFE support services
  • describe what resources and infrastructure are required to deliver high quality VET courses in schools and/or TAFE.  

The VET review panellists are interested in practical solutions that address the challenges teachers and educators face with delivering high quality public TAFE courses in the current funding environment.

Discussion points for a substantial submission

Listed in the boxes below are the Review’s Terms of Reference. Click on each one for discussion points you might like to include in your submission.

A. Scope

Positive ideas that will rebuild confidence in the VET sector, with TAFE as the pre-eminent high-quality provider of vocational education. Federation has for many years advocated for guaranteed public funding to TAFE and to stop private for-profit training providers access to these public funds

Funding cuts must be restored to TAFE Access and Equity programs for disadvantaged students to access additional support, including students with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and students needing specialist language, literacy and numeracy support 

Need for TAFE guaranteed funding for long-term investment in students, TAFE workforce, capital investment and professional development 

Rebuild student, employer and community confidence through focus on high-quality education, not cost cutting. Improved TAFE systems of enrolment, teaching and assessment for improved student outcomes 

B. Area of focus

Suggested discussion points appear as bullets within the boxes.

B.1.1 Better meet VET and TAFE workforce needs – including addressing teachers shortages, teacher qualifications and teacher career progression 

  • The need for competitive salaries and working conditions to attract the best and brightest from industry  
  • Creation of more permanent teacher positions so professionals and tradies can choose to make teaching their career and profession 
  • TAFE to professionally develop teachers and give them access and funding, including teacher release, to gain a tertiary qualification in Adult Education 

B.1.2 Improve equity, access, literacy, numeracy and language pathways and support.

  • The need for regional TAFE Outreach Units that will form partnerships with local community groups, government departments and industry to improve access and identify barriers to learning for disadvantaged people. This is especially important in rural areas 

B.1.3  Deliver a more standardised approach to VET in schools – combining a statewide provision with local variation to match the needs of a school community and industry requirements 

  • Explain the need for creating regional Joint Secondary Schools and TAFE Units, to facilitate access to TAFE for secondary students and a seamless interface between the two sectors 

B.1.4  Improve completion rates or other successful outcomes for learners 

  • Explain the need to identify individual learner needs before course commencement 
  • Restore face-to-face teaching hours (describe the cuts to course delivery hours) to allow students time to acquire underpinning knowledge and practice skills 
  • Explain that under the Smart and Skilled failed funding model and qualification prices, many courses are deemed “unviable” unless course delivery hours are slashed so dramatically that there is basically only time for assessment of students 

B1.5  Examine and recommend adjustments to TAFE recurrent funding and community obligation funding, including other funding sources, pricing and student loans models to ensure different learners and locations are best supported 

  • Give examples of the failure of the Smart and Skilled “voucher” system, including the untenable administrative work associated with fixing e-rejections and missing marks. The funding model is so complex and unfairly dependent on multiple factors in the student “lifecycle” that teaching sections often miss out on claiming the full Smart and Skilled funding for students due to system and human errors 
  • Suggest a return to a yearly Administration Fee according to the qualification level, with appropriate fee exemptions for disadvantaged people 

B1.6  Examine best practice of specific TAFE education and training in areas, including supporting students with disability, personal and career counselling, outreach, multicultural and CALD students, corrective services and other equity education provision 

  • Give examples of learner support that has been successful 
  • Explain the need for more Disability Teacher Consultants and Counsellors so each college has access to these services onsite, especially in rural areas 

B.2.1 Defining the role and expectations of TAFE (and other providers) clearly within the system, and across the state.

  • Buildings and infrastructure that are not fit for purpose to deliver to industry and sector standards.  It is expected that TAFE are able to provide resourcing that is industry and sector current 
  • Lack of resourcing in technology where students need to access certain software that is not compatible with the TAFE provided computers 
  • Guaranteed funding to TAFE with investment into infrastructure and resourcing from the ground up, rather than to Connected Learning Centres or Connected Learning Points  

B.2.2 Exploring opportunities for course design, delivery and assessment development to meet learner, community and industry needs

  • Reduction of delivery times and impacts on student outcomes and stakeholders’ opinion of TAFE as the leading vocational education provider 
  • Poor assessment design e.g., length and overassessment and outsourcing development to third parties 
  • Removing competency-based training 
  • Bring back curriculum centres 

B.2.3 Examining the best provision and support for different types of learners

  • Student attrition in courses that are advertised as face to face, yet are combined with online and self-directed learning 
  • Slashing of “wrap around” services that provide add-ons to the student learning experiences 
  • Focus on intervention and prevocational qualifications such as Certificate I and Certificate II that build upon the students’ skills and knowledge within their area of chosen career 
  • Stop treating education as a business 

B.2.4 Outlining the optimal approach to partnership with industry and employers 

  • Disconnect between employers and TAFE due to red tape and issues with getting students enrolled in courses, especially apprenticeships.   
  • Sector reluctance to take TAFE students due to the heavy workload expected of the host employer 
  • Reintroduce industry and sector ‘nights’, where employers meet the teachers and find out about the students ‘ at TAFE experience 
  • Teacher release to visit employers with the sole purpose of connections rather than to also assess students 

B.3.1 Research best practice approaches for vocational delivery, including for digital/online delivery

  • Voice of teachers has been lost for too long; focus on restoring teacher professionalism and status   
  • Listen to feedback from students and employers  

B.3.2 Meet the apprenticeship and trainee needs of NSW and explore options for innovation with specific reference to teaching and learning strategies beyond the traditional focus on simple wage subsidy provision  

  • Reverse the course hours cut from apprenticeship and trainee courses so students can develop appropriate practical skills 
  • Limit online learning for new apprentices and trainees and increase practical learning for students 
  • Remove the current TAFE assessments process that requires students to achieve 100 per cent competency to pass a subject

B.3.3 Recommend opportunities to optimise and collaborate on VET infrastructure, equipment and delivery, and explore improved models for capital investment for TAFE 

  • Revitalise under-utilised TAFE infrastructure, even if enrolment numbers are small at first, and build more TAFE infrastructure  
  • Public schools and TAFE work more closely as a public education system, utilising TAFE and schools infrastructure e.g., in a regional town, where is the best commercial kitchen to train in?  
  • No more sell-offs of TAFE land  
  • Ensure TAFE facilities, resources and equipment are of the highest quality and up to date technology. 

More key points to raise in your submission

If you are a student, apprentice, teacher, staff member or have firsthand experience of TAFE, you can help the Review panel understand why TAFE is so important by telling them what benefits it brought to you, your students, people you know and the community. 

If you have been a student of a private provider, know someone who has been or have been an instructor for one, you can tell the Review panel about the focus on minimising costs, meeting only minimum training standards and limited opportunities for people with special needs. You could describe unethical methods they use to recruit students and about any failures to maintain appropriate assessment standards.

Rising fees for many courses, the loss of support for students with special needs, the inappropriate use of online learning as a cost-cutting mechanism and the shortening of course hours are creating real barriers for most students. The entitlement system limits opportunities for young people to realise they have made a mistake and choose a new course and for older people to have a second career. Many students have been locked out of general education options and pre-vocational education, denying then access to further study. The Panel needs to hear from teachers, students, apprentices and community members about what this means for the next generation of skilled workers and the economy they will drive.

The panel needs to hear about the unique challenges facing these communities. The economic future of regional NSW will depend on a skilled and innovative workforce. The loss of courses and the closure of TAFE colleges undermine access to educational opportunities for many rural residents. The Review panel should be told that high levels of youth unemployment can only be addressed by investing in a quality TAFE system that covers the whole of the state.

Under Smart and Skilled, each year the NSW government decides how much of its Vocational Education and Training (VET) budget is taken from TAFE and put into the contestable market where the public system has to compete with low-cost, low-quality private providers. This is a race to the bottom in quality and standards and the focus on skills at the least cost leaves no room for TAFE’s mission to provide young working class Australians with a comprehensive education. TAFE should have secure guaranteed funding. For-profit and new corporations should be banned from receiving public funds. 

You can talk about how TAFE’s budget has been slashed and how the training market is narrowing the focus of TAFE onto profitability. The panel needs to hear about the slashing of teacher and support staff numbers, courses, contact hours and support services for people with special needs and outreach (access and equity) and the loss of confidence in the future and positive experiences that are no longer offered by TAFE. 

The bewildering array of course fees, concessions and exemptions has confused even the NSW government and TAFE management, let alone teachers and newly enrolling students. The panel should be made aware of the effects of the complexity on people seeking to enrol in a vocational qualification. These failures have resulted in TAFE itself losing students and in some cases courses.