“We campaign in poetry and govern in prose.” So said the late Mario Cuomo, who served as Governor of New York.
At CCA’s office on Pitt Street in downtown Sydney, we experience the election at close hand: we are next door to a large pre-poll voting centre (see photo). As of late Monday afternoon (13 May), approximately 2.6 million Australians had already voted, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.
So what poetry, to use Governor Cuomo’s words, has the current campaign produced relevant to Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) and adult and community education?
THE MAJOR PARTIES
Australian Labour Party
- Restore “public TAFE as the major provider in the VET system”, but ensure that “not-for-profit community and adult education providers are supported in the critical complementary role they play.”
- Update the 2008 Ministerial Declaration on Adult Community Education.
- Ensuring that “at least two thirds of public funding for training will go to TAFE with the remaining one third to high quality, including not-for-profit community providers.”
- Support “the unique role of not-for-profit Adult Learning and Community Education organisations to Australia’s post-secondary education system.”
- Establish an “independent and comprehensive once-in-a-generation national inquiry into post-secondary education in Australia”, with “adult and community education as central to this inquiry, as we know that we won’t be able to deliver it without your expertise, practice and community connection.”
- “Develop and implement a national adult literacy strategy, prioritising language, literacy, numeracy and digital learning” and work “with adult and community educators to design and implement the program.”
- “Address the problems in the Adult Migrant English and Skills for Education and Employment programs.”
In other announcements, Labor has committed to:
- support Australia’s charities and not-for-profit organisations by fixing fundraising and ensuring that advocacy is legitimate and appropriate; and
- establish a Renewables Training Package.
Labor’s major skills policies revolve around the support of TAFE. Another significant Labor policy announcement is a $537 million commitment to increase the pay of early childhood educators – many of whom train at not-for-profit community education providers. CCA has reviewed the book Wrong Way: How Privatisation & Economic Reform Backfired, which contains some of the research that Federal Labor utilised in framing its VET policies.
Liberals and Nationals
The Liberal/National Coalition has not made specific announcements or commitments to adult and community education. Minister Michaelia Cash presented the Coalition’s plan for skills as part of the Commonwealth Budget and response to the Joyce VET Review, which are also reflected in letters to CCA from the Liberals and from the Nationals. Their Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package plans to:
- Create up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years in priority skill shortage areas through a new apprenticeship incentive.
- Increase support provided to people with lower levels of education attainment, with four pilots in remote Indigenous communities.
- Address youth unemployment by providing regional scholarships.
- Raise the profile of the VET sector and improve career advice by establishing a National Careers Institute and a National Careers Ambassador.
- Build innovative partnerships between schools, employers and the VET sector.
- Promote a nation-wide approach to skills development by establishing a National Skills Commission and piloting human services care and digital technologies.
- Provide greater job opportunities for young people in regions with high youth unemployment through Training Hubs that create better linkages between schools and local industry.
- Streamline incentives for employers of apprentices and trainees and modernise the skills needs list.
The Liberals also promised to double the apprenticeship wage subsidy trial and extend the Unique Student Identifier (USI) from VET to all higher education students.
The Greens – through spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi – have also articulated their position on community education via Adult Learning Australia:
- “Adult and community education is a core part of lifelong learning. Guaranteeing universal access to adult education will help us build a more equitable society and prepare for the ever changing nature of work.”
- “The Greens’ have a plan to transform the VET sector by removing Federal funding from for-profit private providers. The community not-for-profit adult education and VET sectors should be supported to complement publicly funded TAFE.”
- “Making participation in adult and community education more equitable for Indigenous Australians, people living in remote areas and those suffering from disadvantage, including socioeconomic disadvantage. Inclusive and equitable adult and community education is a public good that must be a policy and funding priority.”
- Supporting “robust research into lifelong learning.”
- Recognising “the need to build language, literacy and numeracy skills development into the workplace through employer engagement.”
CCA FEDERAL ELECTION POLICY
CCA’s Federal Election Policy Platform outlines our policies and requests for the next Federal Government. The Platform describes the scope and achievements of Australia’s 420+ adult and community education providers, which have 385,000 VET students, 9.5% of the national total, and 5.7% of government-funded VET students.
The Platform includes specific request to:
- fund community education infrastructure and facilities;
- recognise adult and community education through a new national Ministerial Statement;
- fund Australian community education-provided VET to a minimum 15% of the total VET market and 10% of government-funded VET;
- present clear policies about the role and purpose of TAFE, ensuring that any increased funding for TAFE – which CCA supports – does not result in unintended consequences that damage the viability and sustainability of community providers;
- reverse the marketisation and privatisation of VET, ensuring that government and community providers – both committed to the common good – receive the great majority of government VET funding, and not private for-profit providers;
- increase funding for foundation skills, adult basic education and teaching of English as a second language;
- enable community providers to participate in regional economic development through supporting their place-based strengths; and
- upskill older workers through resourcing community education providers.
OTHER VET ELECTION COMMENTARY
Does the apprenticeships and traineeships system deliver for our young people? An ABC Radio report interviewed TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson, and Apprenticeship Support Australia Senior Manager Lena Constantine.
Getting education right: Economist and Fairfax columnist Ross Gittins writes that, “A top-notch technical education system will also be key to achieving something we’ve long just rabbited on about: lifelong learning.” He also writes that “education satisfies humans’ insatiable curiosity about the world” and has “intrinsic value to our spiritual living standard.”
Employment services: progressive think tank Per Capita analysed Coalition and Labor employment service policies – specifically the “jobactive” program – and concluded that, “neither platform constitutes the overhaul jobactive needs.”
Grattan Institute think tank released its higher education priorities, that include restoring the demand-driven higher education system, and reducing upfront fees in vocational education to make that choice easier for students who may be better off in VET.
Private for-profit VET providers warned Labor against prioritising TAFE: peak organisation ACPET (now ITECA) says that the public system has been run down by successive state and federal governments to a point where it no longer has the infrastructure to work with even if Labor poured money into it.
CCA welcomes your comments on this newsletter and our election policies. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Federal Election”.
Thanks for reading.
Dr Don Perlgut, CEO