BUILDING AUSTRALIA'S SKILLS FUTURE
-PRIORITY TAFE FUNDING
The Australian Greens have a rescue package of an additional $1.2 billion to revitalise TAFE - with at least $120 million more for Western Australia - and have called on the Federal government to overhaul the current VET funding arrangements that have directed billions of dollars to private training providers ahead of TAFEs.
Why the Greens’ TAFE plan is vital for Western Australia
While the Barnett Government talks about developing and expanding a skilled workforce in Western Australia, in reality it is slashing essential funding from the TAFE sector, the key provider of quality training.
The 2013-2014 budget, released on August 8, contained a cut of over 3% in funding for TAFE. The forward estimates are worse. For 2014-15 the cuts will be a further 7.6% - and the reduction in expenditure continues in the following two financial years.
The terrible logic behind the cuts is clear – there is a huge risk the Barnett Government is taking WA down the same path as Victoria – towards the privatisation of TAFE Colleges.
Victoria – a case study in “efficiency dividends”
In Victoria training delivery by TAFE has dropped from 75% in 2008 to only 45.6% today, with private operators growing from 14 to 46% in the same period. Private providers have been associated with poor quality delivery, many offering diplomas which take 12 to 18 months at TAFE in five days or over a weekend. The quality of vocational education in Victoria has disintegrated, and the Liberals are now pushing total privatisation of TAFE.
Many of the 18 Victorian TAFE institutes operating with healthy surpluses six years ago will close down over the next few months, facing financial ruin after the State Government cut a further $300 million in the recent Budget.
The Productivity Places Program (PPP) was the federal government’s major funding source for VET. The purpose was to boost VET qualifications for national priority skill shortages.
The $2.1 billion program was expected to deliver 711,000 training places over five years. Two-thirds of the way through the program only 426,000 people had commenced training and only 112,000 had completed their courses.(1) More than 75% of its funding went to private providers at the expense of TAFE.(2)
TAFE provides more training in areas of high level skill shortages than private providers. These priority training courses are expensive to run and private providers cherry-pick the cheaper , more-profitable courses which are not necessarily identified as a priority.
A 2006 report predicted a lower-skilled economy in NSW as an effect of shifting TAFE funding to private providers.(3) We have already seen this happen in Victoria.
The importance of TAFE in regional and rural Western Australia
TAFE is the main training provider in regional and rural areas. It creates pathways to education, employment and community participation for a disproportionate share of some of our most disadvantaged students. This builds not only individual capacity and financial benefits, but benefits our communities and economy as a result. (4)
Regional and rural areas are losing their TAFE campuses. Access to high quality vocational training for young people and mature workers needing to update their skills in a changing workforce, is no longer a guarantee, even when the qualification is fully funded by students.
Private providers have no responsibility to a full-time public workforce, nor a legislated commitment to serve rural or disadvantaged communities.
Where to now for TAFE in WA?
It appears the Barnett Government is considering similar attacks on the Western Australian TAFE system. As it stands, half of public funding – both State and Federal – is open to competition by private profit-seeking operators.
The Barnett government is now considering a training market in which all government funds will be open to private providers, with not one dollar guaranteed for the institution that can be relied upon to deliver an adequate level of training – TAFE. The consequences of a private-dominated training sector include but are not limited to massive increases in course fees, corner cutting and poor standards.
The Greens TAFE rescue package
The Greens have always been proud defenders of a strong TAFE system as a strategic public asset to meet Australia’s future skills training needs.
The federal government has forced TAFE to compete with private providers for public funding, resulting in campus closures, course cuts, rising fees and job losses.
Our $1.2 billion rescue package will inject $400 million per year for TAFE, starting from 1 July 2014 over the forward estimates.
In Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales there has been an alarming trend towards commercialisation of VET and with that comes less accountability, reduced staff numbers and course quality. We will repair that damage, and turn back the tide in Western Australia.
In 2011 1.3 million of the 1.9 million students studying vocational education where enrolled in a TAFE institution.
For over 100 years TAFE has been the leading national provider of vocational education and training (VET) courses.
The Greens call on the federal government to take leadership and commit to increasing federal budget spending on TAFE and ensure that TAFE is the preferred provider of VET courses.
The policy costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office would be funded by the $42.7 billion of new revenue savings announced by the Greens on July 24, including fixing the mining super profits tax, placing a levy on the big banks, and ending tax breaks to fossil fuel companies.
1Senate Standing Committee on Education Employment & Workplace Relations. Budget Estimates 2011-12. Answer to Question No EW0400_12. (Nash).
2Allen Consulting Group. 2010. Mid-Term Review of the National partnership Agreement for the productivity Places program
3Allen Consulting Group (2006) The complete package: The value of TAFE. NSW, The Allen Consulting Group, Sydney.
4Stone,C. Valuing Skills – why vocational training matters. 2012. Centre for Policy Development
Authorised by Chris Dickinson & Adam Duncan, the Greens (WA), Ground Floor 445 Hay St Perth