Forum to plot course to bolster TAFE

A national event on
the future of TAFE is being planned by the Australian Education Union.

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.

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