Recurrent funding must be restored

TAFE Talk: Education Quarterly, Issue 7 2023

There’s a $200 million recurring shortfall in the TAFE NSW budget, a joint media release by Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and Minister for Skills TAFE and Tertiary Education Tim Crakanthorp revealed on 20 June.

The announcement followed the revelation by Mr Mookhey on 12 June of the discovery of a $7 billion “black hole” in the state’s finances courtesy of the previous Coalition government.

The June 20 joint media release states:

“The TAFE NSW budget over the forward estimates shows the former government has cut funding by $196 million, from $1.996 billion in 2022–23 to $1.801 billion in 2023–24.

“The inherited shortfall of the TAFE budget was a deliberate decision of the former government with cuts locked into the Budget’s forward estimates payments.

“Advice from TAFE NSW to the Government is that the operating budget for the state’s public provider of vocational education and training has required a budget adjustment at the last minute of at least $200 million each year for the last four years to ensure that the very basic delivery of services could be maintained.”

The announcement of a $200 million shortfall in TAFE funding comes as no surprise to TAFE teachers, students and their employers. It clearly demonstrates the previous government’s failed experiment for a market-driven funding model for vocational education was an abject failure.

This news could not come at a worse time as NSW struggles with reverse skills shortages that are vital to rebuilding NSW after the recent bushfires, floods, pandemic and the current housing crisis.

Little more than privatisation by stealth, the Perrottet government’s Smart and Skilled funding model put TAFE NSW in competition with private training colleges for public vocational education funding that effectively flatlined over the 12-year life of the NSW Coalition government.

Despite multiple announcements of record budgets by various former Coalition ministers, including John Barilaro and Alister Henskens, the reality is that TAFE NSW has been slowly starved of funding and now only receives the same $1.8 billion in funding it received under the last Labor government in 2011.

Before the NSW election, the Minns Government pledged: “It will provide TAFE with the financing stability it needs to flourish, starting with a guarantee of at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding to TAFE each year.”

The Minns Government must act to restore recurrent funding to TAFE NSW to put an end to the funding uncertainty of the past 12 years. It must abolish the Smart and Skilled funding model.

TAFE funding must be a priority, it is central to the quality of life and future growth of the NSW economy and a skilled workforce.