NSW Election Watch: NSW Liberals election announcements

The NSW Liberals have made four recent additional election announcements relevant to NSW community education providers: a new TAFE campus for Western Sydney, 100,000 free TAFE training courses, a commitment to a 250,000 jobs target with vocational high schools and a TAFE-run women entrepreneurs training program.

CCA Comment

CCA welcomes additional VET infrastructure in NSW (a new TAFE campus), however notes that it should be complemented by investment in new facilities for NSW community education providers, many of which are operating from substandard, ageing and poorly designed premises.

CCA also believes in the value of providing additional resources to the NSW training (100,000 additional TAFE courses), however is concerned that this may have unintended negative consequences for the community education sector. A major increase in free TAFE courses in Victoria has already impacted not-for-profit community providers in that state. CCA notes that 30,000 of the free TAFE places are for “mature aged workers” to retrain or re-enter the workplace. On a percentage basis, NSW community providers reach many more older workers than TAFE: in 2017, 35.8% of government-funded community provider students were aged 45+, compared to only 19% of TAFE students.

CCA endorses the focus on female small business entrepreneurs, but asks why only TAFE is to receive funding for this. As the successful 2017/18 NSW Tech Savvy for Small Business (TSB) program showed, NSW community providers have excellent on-the-ground ability to connect with small businesses and entrepreneurs in a female-friendly environment: almost two-thirds of our sector’s students are women, much higher than TAFE’s percentage. Many thousands of small businesses engaged with the 32 community providers participating in the TSB program.

(Election promises detailed below.)

New Western Sydney TAFE Campus

The NSW Liberals & Nationals have committed to build a new specialised $80 million TAFE campus in Western Sydney to deliver construction training, based on the “record infrastructure pipeline and a construction boom underway across Sydney” and “surging demand for more tradies.” It will focus on fields like construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, and train 700 new students each year, and be located close to the new Western Sydney airport, in or near Penrith, Leppington or Bringelly.

The new facility will complement the establishment of SkillsPoint at Mount Druitt (PDF), where TAFE is working with the construction industry in Western Sydney.

100,000 Free TAFE Courses

The NSW Liberals & Nationals plan an additional 100,000 free TAFE and VET courses over the next four years. The 100,000 additional courses will be made up of 70,000 new fee-free courses for young job-seekers taking on traineeships and 30,000 free TAFE places for mature aged workers seeking to retrain or re-enter the workforce.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Skills John Barilaro said the new places were on top of the almost 150,000 free apprenticeship, TAFE and VET courses already offered each year. “As a former tradie I know first-hand just how rewarding a career in a trade can be, and how important it is to give people a chance to get a start in life,” Mr Barilaro said.

250,000 Jobs Target, Vocational High Schools and Productivity Bootcamps

The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has promised to create 250,000 new jobs in the next four years, with Western Sydney and regional NSW a key focus of the jobs target. Two vocational high schools and two additional Productivity Bootcamps (in Western Sydney and the South Coast) will be established (in association with NSW TAFE) to help young people build skills and kick-start careers.

The vocational high schools will be located in Western Sydney and on the North Coast. Up to $17 million is earmarked for each site to fund construction of specialist training facilities at two existing schools. The two schools will train students in skills in demand by local employers and industry requirements and allow them to study a trade while completing the HSC. Courses may include construction, electro-technology, hospitality, metal and engineering and primary industries.

TAFE Women Entrepreneurs Training

The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will offer a free online women’s financial literacy and start-up course that provides mentoring, networking and coaching to women wanting to start and grow their own business.

The $5.85 million TAFE Women Entrepreneur Series would support women who want the flexibility self-employment offers, to enter or re-enter the workforce from July 2019. The focus on areas such as small business, where women are under-represented: just 28% of small business owners in NSW are female.

This program is to support women who prefer the flexibility of home-based work to balance family commitments, as well as remote workers who may prefer home-based self-employment to avoid travel burdens. The program will run over 12 months, giving women access to a series of free video tutorials, a library of resources and in-person workshops across the state featuring female entrepreneurs. TAFE NSW will offer the course in three parts and will include assistance with working banks to secure finance.

Update on 12 March 2019:  Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports that “A female entrepreneur who had been in discussions with Government MPs and TAFE about what would become a NSW Liberal party election policy to help women set up and run a small business has described her experience as ‘like an episode of Utopia’.” She “alleges a program to provide mentoring, networking and coaching to women wanting to start and grow their own business was based on her work.”

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