Three national political leaders have praised Australia’s adult and community education (ACE) providers at last week’s Community Colleges Australia (CCA) Annual Conference.
“CCA warmly welcomes the positive words and commitments that the Commonwealth Skills Minister, Labor Shadow Skills Minister and Victorian Skills Minister made to ACE providers,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CCA CEO. “It is wonderful to have the confirmation that our sector and our providers matter, are appreciated and have an important role in the future of Australian vocational education and training.”
At the Conference Opening on 25 July, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills the Hon Karen Anderson MP said that she was, “passionate about the accredited vocational courses, certificates and qualifications that community colleges offer.” (Photo caption: Minister Karen Andrews on left and Dr Don Perlgut on right.)
Noting that “a large proportion of the training you deliver is to migrants, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, the elderly, and people in regional areas,” Minister Andrews congratulated “all those in the running for Community Colleges’ Student of the Year awards … [which] are a tribute to many who’ve overcome significant personal challenges through their study with community providers.”
“Community colleges flourish when they connect with their communities through local businesses,” Minister Andrews said. She gave the examples of “ACE Community Colleges, which operates a campus at Burleigh Heads in my own Queensland electorate,” and “VERTO, [which] won Large Training Provider of the Year at the 2015 Australian Training Awards.”
She thanked the community sector “for your work in giving young people job readiness skills, and for giving people of all walks of life a chance to learn more about the world around them.”
Senator the Hon Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships, spoke on Wednesday 26 July. His speech mentioned how “governments [must] give proper backing to community and adult education – particularly given your expertise in providing education to disadvantaged learners.”
Senator Cameron committed Labor “to work with your sector to build upon our 2008 Ministerial Declaration on Adult and Community Education – and work with you for a vibrant, secure and sustainable community education sector.”
Senator Cameron continued: “Community education is critical – particularly for the growing number of disenfranchised, unemployed or underemployed young people finding it hard, if not impossible, to break into the labour market.
“Community Colleges and the people who work in them, excel at assisting disadvantaged learners. You work with individuals to achieve goals they had thought were beyond their reach – providing critical literacy and numeracy skills and assisting them to gain important foundation life and employment skills. You give young people, alienated from formal schooling, a second chance at education.
“Your colleges also offer quality, vocationally-focused training and education to people seeking to start work, return to work, change jobs or keep their job.
“Community-based education is a critical launching point for disadvantaged learners into further education and into work; particularly in regional and rural communities where the support is especially valuable and needed.
“Adult and community education institutions build and sustain local communities by bringing people together through their shared interests; by forging partnerships with other local organisations; and tailoring courses from the community and for the communities they serve.
“In a world where inequality, fragmentation and isolation are growing, the work community educators undertake – creating and sustaining local connections; nurturing resilient, engaged and involved citizens; and smoothing transitions into work and further learning – is of enormous value.
“The socially, politically and economically engaged communities you foster are the foundations upon which strong democracies are built. You provide places where people can congregate to discuss, learn, argue, agree and educate each other. Community colleges deserve and need to be supported by governments.
“As community educators you are a … vital part of a vocational education and training sector that is of great social and economic importance.”
Senator Cameron noted that, “in government, [Labor] will secure funding for VET in the Budget with …. one third of funding open to not for profit community providers – and only the very best quality and ethical private RTOs that can demonstrate strong links to industry.”
Senator Cameron continued: “Labor envisages a future where public TAFE and not for profit community educators work collaboratively with local communities to ensure that quality, tailored education and training is accessible to all – and particularly to those who need it most.
“Labor is proud of what you do. Without your dedication in delivering much needed foundation learning and enriching our lives with on-going education, we would be diminished as a society. We would be lonelier, less capable and more vulnerable. With community colleges – we are more cohesive, inclusive, more resilient and better equipped to interpret, navigate and shape the world in which we live. You have a critical role in enabling involved, engaged and active citizens. You have a vital role in reducing inequality, improving productivity and international competitiveness.
“Thank you for the work that you do. Bill Shorten and Labor recognise the invaluable role that you play in building a better society.
“We commit to working with you to build the sector, improve the lives of community sector students and support you in your invaluable contribution to Australia.”
In addition to Minister Andrews and Senator Cameron, Victorian Minister for Training and Skills, the Hon Gayle Tierney MLC, spoke on Thursday 27 July.