Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment to provide funding assistance for the maintenance of NSW adult and community education (ACE) providers.
CCA had requested the NSW Government in May 2018 to provide funding to support maintenance costs of community education providers. Following representations on behalf of CCA members made by NSW state Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, the NSW Deputy Premier wrote to CCA in November 2018 confirming that funding would be provided in 2019/20.
According to the Deputy Premier’s letter, the NSW Department of Industry is considering “ongoing infrastructure support as part of a review of the implementation of the Community Service Obligation (CSO) program. The review aims to ensure CSO is supporting ACE providers to be effective in the programs available to serve their clients.”
The 2019/20 funding program will “be implemented against specific criteria and … take account of a provider’s Smart and Skilled compliance and performance against Community Service Obligation program targets.” Funding beyond 2019/20 will be subject to the review’s outcomes.
The specific amount of funding in 2019/20 has not been formally announced. CCA understands that applications for funding will be requested from eligible providers in April.
Prior to the May 2018 submission to the NSW Deputy Premier, CCA undertook extensive research to provide evidence that improved building infrastructure and maintenance also improves education, training, employment and community development outcomes.
Building and maintenance issues facing not-for-profit community providers include postponing essential maintenance because of limited funds; the costs of maintaining older heritage buildings; utilisation and retro-fitting of buildings not originally designed for education and training; poorly maintained buildings providing poor branding and marketing image; providing buildings in accessible locations – important for both youth and adult clients, who often study on a part-time or casual basis in between other work and family responsibilities; and ensuring buildings are accessible to people with disabilities, given that community providers have a much larger percentage of learners with disabilities than either TAFE or private-for-profit providers.
Many Australian community education providers received funding from the Commonwealth Government in 2009/10 through the “Investing in Community Education and Training” (ICET) program, part of Commonwealth’s “Teaching and Learning Capital Fund for Vocational Education and Training” (also known as TLCF). Commonwealth Government funding at the time provided $500 million to universities, $200 million to TAFE institutes and $100 million to the community education and training sector.
CCA’s research undertaken with Per Capita showed that more than 100,000 new students undertook training in community education institutions over the seven years following the 2009/10 funding, as a direct result of ICET funding. Other outcomes resulting from ICET-funded infrastructure included:
- three-quarters of recipient organisations offered new courses;
- of these new courses, around two-thirds were vocational, providing new skills and pathways into employment;
- almost all providers provided training to more students and improved existing courses;
- four-fifths of providers improved accessibility to their educational facilities for staff and students living with disabilities;
- one-fifth hired new staff; and
- almost two-thirds improved staff skills.