The future of public TAFE institutions

The Australian Education Union, in conjunction with the John Cain Foundation, has held a conference to initiate discussion and debate around the future of TAFE and the importance of developing new public policy in the sector.

The QTU sent five members of TAFE Council, two TAFE State Council representatives and two Officers. Also present were representatives of both TAFE Queensland and Central Queensland University.

There were two main foci, both operating within the overarching theme of construction of new social policy built around TAFE and vocational education.

The first was that “the market” as a means of distributing resources for vocational education provision is a failed experiment. By every measure, it has failed to deliver. The “tinkering with the edges” approach (increasing oversight and compliance mechanisms) has only served to impose administrative burdens on good providers, which poor providers evade. Stepping outside the market and directly funding self-accrediting TAFE colleges is a model that will ensure that quality vocational education is the cornerstone for future jobs and the economy. The argument must be reframed outside of the framework of the market.

The second key message was that in a rapidly evolving work and employment environment, where change is driven by constant technological development, competency-based training is not fit for purpose. The built-in delay in the “skills club” processes of training package development results in significant lag between the initial conversations held on developing a training package and subsequent implementation by RTOs. This means that the requirements outlined by industry are out of date by the time the units of competency are being delivered.

An analysis of workforce statistics demonstrated that the true level of unemployment and under employment in this country sits around three million. A new model which aims at “human flourishing” utilises broad cross-industry needs captured in “capabilities”. There are strong models in the most successful international systems to draw on for examples of the success of such an approach. Additionally, there is a significant amount of money being wasted in the development of training packages which have few or no enrolments. The “skills club” has made the development of training packages an industry in its own right, and it needs to be examined.

David Terauds                                                                                                                      TAFE Organiser

What the delegates thought of the conference...

“So where to for the survival of the trusted brand? Inject more funds to ensure a short-term solution/fix, keeping in mind that we need a level of funding to run the brand, or do we revamp the system (VET) with funding and place us back into the community as the anchor of VET and as the lead public provider of VET and adult learning?”

Arthur Dellit, TAFE Councillor


“This is just the beginning of the discussions we must positively engage in to bring about change in VET, so our students into the future can realise the life they have imagined and what they aspire to be, by increasing their capability through innovative broader based courses that have been designed to take advantage of emerging technologies and the interconnectedness of digital devices.”

Scott Green, State Council TAFE Rep and TAFE Executive


“I spoke with three new students and also gave some career advice to a family friend for her daughter. The resounding feedback is that while TAFE is more expensive than some private RTOs, it is trusted to deliver quality education. In addition, there was input from students and the community that TAFE should be seen as a natural progression between compulsory education, work transition and/or university.”

Suewellyn Kelly, TAFE Councillor and TAFE Executive


“The VET system in Australia is currently stuffed beyond repair. It is therefore pointless to continue fiddling around the edges. We need to chuck the whole lot out and start again, beginning with the premise that reliable high-quality institutions MUST anchor the VET system, and TAFE is the obvious entity to carry this new approach forward.”

Mark Linkson TAFE Councillor


“A new model that invests in human flourishing in a broad, contemporary and transferable range of skills, which wisely negotiates between social inclusiveness and economics, not limited to just-in-time skill sets, is of utmost importance. This new model must place TAFE at the centre and anchor of social and economic development.”

Franco Laviano, TAFE Councillor and TAFE Executive

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 1, 9 February 2018, p25