State Election 2023 – The change TAFE needs

Federation Annual Conference today approved a recommendation to redouble its calls on the Perrottet Government to abandon its obsession with ideological cuts to TAFE NSW.

Conference also called on the government to admit the failure of its attempts to replace the public provision of adult education in NSW Correctional Centres with less accountable, mostly private for-profit providers.

Deputy Secretary Post Schools, Phill Chadwick said the toll on the TAFE system over the past 11 years of the Coalition Government – nine of those concurrent with the federal Liberal-National Government – has been immense.

Changes including the ‘Smart and Skilled’ funding model borne out of the federal 2012 National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform have introduced experiments which are nothing but examples of the utter failure of marketisation and privatisation in public education,” Mr Chadwick said.

Our message to the Perrottet Government is that forcing our high-quality TAFE systems to compete with less rigorous, less accountable and mostly private, for-profit providers is a vocational education race to the bottom.

Far from competition for providers increasing choice for students and employers, the reality for TAFE is the exact opposite. The number of available student places has declined – most notably in regional areas – and the impact on skills shortages has increased exponentially.

Across the state, aspiring apprentices and trainees for much needed trades including Carpentry, Electrical and Plumbing are being turned away because there isn’t a teacher to teach them.

”Students on the far north coast of NSW now have to travel to Newcastle to learn their trade. It’s no wonder I was recently asked to believe: ‘No one in Lismore wants to be a brick layer.’

Privatisations promise more student choice but more often than not, the reality is no choice at all, particularly in regional areas.”

Federation delegates also supported Mr Chadwick’s concerns that without the recommended government policy changes to reinstate the public provision of adult education in NSW Correctional Centres, skill shortages will only get worse.

TAFE is a public education system under siege,” he said.

While the defeat of the Morrison federal government brings new hope in 2023 for the changes, we also need state government support to rebuild our once iconic TAFE system and reinstate the public provision of adult education in NSW Correctional Centres.”

Mr Chadwick said that because funding under the ‘Smart and Skilled’ model is not recurrent, and is instead based on enrolments, annual TAFE funding yoyos” with fluctuations in student numbers.

Funding follows the students. If the student doesn’t enrol, funding doesn’t follow,” he said. Overall, TAFE funding has stagnated and last week’s ‘record’ Budget of $2 billion is only 11 per cent above 2011 figures”.

Funding has not even kept pace with the CPI, which is proof that this government has no idea and holds no value for the role that TAFE education and TAFE teachers play in our communities.

TAFE NSW is the key to resolving skills shortages in the wider community and, in particular, our communities ravaged by fire and flood. Current NSW government policy settings are a choke point on the social and economic road to recovery. We need to rebuild and rebuild now.”

Lack of value and respect has resulted in constant change. TAFE NSW has had five different managing directors and five different ministers in the past seven years. Mr Chadwick said the revolving door of ministers, managing directors and other senior TAFE management, has forced TAFE NSW down a path of perpetual restructuring and organisational change.

After years of mass teacher redundancies, TAFE teachers are struggling to come to grips with their own self-induced skills shortages,” he said. This, combined with constant change ‘for change’s sake’ has severely impacted TAFE’s operational capability and created silos of disfunction within the organisation.

The impact on staff is that TAFE teacher workload has become untenable as more and more duties are created for them to perform. TAFE employees feel undervalued and overwhelmed.

And if that isn’t enough, TAFE teachers’ salaries and conditions have simply not kept pace with either the salaries and conditions of the sectors, industries and professions they teach, nor the ever-increasing demands of their job.

It’s time the government recognised TAFE not only as the key to resolving skills shortages of today, but that the current salaries, conditions and workloads of TAFE teachers are major barriers to retaining existing teachers and recruiting new teachers.”