NSW Labor commits to free TAFE places

NSW Labor – in the run-up to the March 23rd election – has promised a 10-year plan to provide 600,000 students with free TAFE courses in a bid to reduce skill shortages.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today (11 February) that, “The state’s independent Parliamentary Budget Office has put the cost of the plan, which will start in January 2020 should Labor win office, at $64.5 million between its commencement and 2021-22.” The announcement was widely covered in many other media outlets.

“Free TAFE will help those starting out or those retraining to find jobs in industries that are crying out for more workers,” Labor leader Michael Daley said.

The scheme will cover all certificate-level courses in areas where there are skill deficits, such as childcare, aged care and disability care along with apprenticeships in fields such as plumbing and electrical trades.

CCA Comment

CCA’s CEO, Dr Don Perlgut, responds:

NSW Labor’s commitment to increase TAFE funding at the expense of private for-profit VET providers is welcome. The large number of VET students who studied with private for-profit providers in 2017 – nationally more than 2.5 million, representing 60% of the total – indicate that VET as an education sector has substantially been privatised.

“While the NSW VET sector will benefit enormously from the reinvigoration of TAFE, it should not come at the expense of the state’s vital and active not-for-profit community-managed education providers, which deliver more than 5% of government-funded VET in New South Wales. Community providers specialise in reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous people, those over age 45, people with disabilities, lower socio-economic learners and especially people living in regional and rural New South Wales. In fact, for each of these ‘equity groups’, community providers achieve a higher percentage reach than TAFE – or the private for-profit providers do.

“CCA encourages NSW Labor to frame its policies in such a way that ensures that the community sector - with its high ethical standards - is not disadvantaged by increased support for TAFE, and is included in free courses, especially in areas where our providers specialise, such as aged care, child care and disability care.”

“Community education providers are a natural complement to TAFE and should be treated as such,” said Dr Perlgut.

Earlier today, Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, wrote:

“Community has been lost in the VET narrative. Thank goodness Community Colleges Australia reminds us of its importance. With extremes such as ours – from dense CBDs, sprawling suburbia, vibrant regions and acres of lonely scrub – we can’t afford to forget community.”

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