Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Save TAFE Continues...

A big thank you to the estimated 2,000 + people who attended last Thursday's Rally to Save TAFE and marched from the State Library to Parliament to present the Ballieu government with petitions of over 7,000 signatures urging Victoria to reverse the TAFE funding cuts and commit to proper funding of TAFE education. If you were unable to join the rally, you can still take action by visiting the Tafe4All website to send an email to Premier Ballieu, Skills Minister Hall and your MP.

An noteworthy corollary to the TAFE funding cuts is that for the first time, private for-profit colleges will now receive the same funding as TAFEs. This brings up big questions about the regulation of the private training sector and the purpose of using public funds to subsidise for-profit organisations. The Ballieu government says that the TAFE cuts are addressing a spending blowout in the Victorian training budget, but unions, TAFE executives and others argue that the increase in spending was caused by the increase in funding to private providers and complications resulting from fraudulent practices in a poorly regulated private sector.

State government funding was only opened up to private registered training organisations (RTOs) in 2009, meaning TAFEs had to compete with private providers for government funding. A June submission from the Victorian TAFE Association to the Australian Education Union uses publicly available statistics taken from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to show that from 2008 to 2011 the number of private RTOs more than doubled, and during that time there was a 308% growth in student enrolments in the private sector (166,586 additional enrolments), while the TAFE sector's growth was 4% (12,404 additional enrolments). With private RTOs receiving government funding, higher enrolments meant a blowout in government spending. The government blames unsustainable TAFE growth and calls the funding cuts necessary, but the numbers don't seem to add up. If the problem spending is in the private sector, cutting funds to TAFE won't fix it.

An information sheet from the Tafe4All campaign titled "Why We Must Save TAFE" states that while TAFEs are run with a commitment to their communities not shared by their for-profit counterparts, they are now forced to compete with private businesses. TAFEs have considerations other than the bottom line, including providing pathways for disadvantaged youth, running high-quality training in a wide range of industries, and addressing skills shortages. Tafe4All cites "an explosion of [private] RTOs, which rushed to cherry-pick popular, cheap-to-run courses such as hospitality and IT. Student numbers soared, but not in shortage skills such as engineering. The result was a massive blow-out in Victoria's training budget.

"Even big business like McDonald's and Crown Casino can become an RTO - meaning we are paying them to train their own staff. The system is also poorly regulated, leading to dodgy practices in the dash for cash. Some fly-by-night operators have run courses in days instead of months, or offered cash incentives to enrol. Some 'students' don't even know they are enroled in a qualification."

 The 7:30 Report recently highlighted the alleged misappropriation of government funding by some private training colleges, resulting in an immediate investigation into the allegations. You can watch the 7:30 Report's original and follow up stories of 8 and 9 August on the ABC website.

There may be a long way to go, but let's keep the pressure on. Let the Ballieu government know that our TAFE courses are valuable, in-demand, and not easily replaced.

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