Drop in VET students at odds with National Skills Week message

The continued decline in the number of students enrolled with nationally recognised vocational education and training (VET) makes a mockery of the government’s National Skills Week, Australian Education Union Federal TAFE Secretary Maxine Sharkey said.

A national report on the state of the VET sector (public and private providers) shows continued decreases in enrolments as the funding crisis bites in Australia’s TAFE network.

According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) report:

  • students enrolled in nationally recognised programs decreased by 5.9 per cent to 2 million in 2018, compared with 2017, and decreased by 16.2 per cent between 2015 to 2018
  • students enrolled in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program increased by 4.9 per cent to 2.5 million in 2018, compared with 2017
  • overall student numbers decreased by 1.5 per cent to 4.1 million people in 2018, compared with 2017.

Ms Sharkey, who is NSW Teachers Federation Deputy Secretary (Post Schools), said:

“The VET sector has been systematically undermined by profit-driven private providers advocating for a system that provides no clear qualifications, no national consistency and no guarantee of quality or qualified teachers.”

“These figures highlight the need for nationally recognised qualifications to ensure that VET course quality is maintained.”

Ms Sharkey said TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia.

She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • guarantee a minimum of 70 per cent 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 insure continuing 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 develop 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 vocational education including TAFE.

“Any proposal that undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the teacher unions,” Ms Sharkey said.

“Since coming to power in 2013, the federal Coalition has failed to invest in high-quality public vocational education to provide Australians with a pathway to real skills and long-term careers.”