Rebuild with TAFE to create a positive future for all
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 2, 12 March 2021, page no. 17
Governments across the country are being asked to make TAFE their first priority, as Australia looks to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle its skills crisis.
QTU President Cresta Richardson and Executive TAFE delegate Scott Tibaldi (pictured) were in Canberra for the launch of the Australian Education Union’s “Rebuild With TAFE” campaign, which calls on governments to properly fund TAFE and maximise the system’s potential to assist with the economic re-build through re-skilling and upskilling workers, addressing the apprentice shortage, reducing youth unemployment and providing career pathways for all Australians.
Australia is facing many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and as the public provider of vocational education, TAFE, the training Australians can trust, is best placed to address those challenges if it is properly funded and supported.
But this hugely valuable asset is being neglected by the federal government and many state governments. The federal government has cut $3 billion in funding from vocational education since 2013 and pursued a relentless privatisation agenda, increasing the number of low quality private training providers, at great cost to TAFE.
Launching the campaign, AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said: “We’re sick of governments and politicians putting TAFE last and letting a critical part of Australia’s economy and education sector waste away.
“All over Australia, TAFE institutes are struggling with the impact of these funding cuts and poor policy decisions resulting in the loss of jobs and the cutting of courses. This is disastrous for the communities they support and must be addressed urgently.”
“Australia currently has a shortage of 200,000 apprentices, while at the same time we also have plenty of Australians who are out of work. Rebuilding with TAFE will help our unemployed to re-train, upskill or get an apprenticeship and gain meaningful employment.
“The National Cabinet itself has determined that skills are one of the six key priorities for the government, yet the federal government won’t properly fund the public provider of vocational education. That doesn’t make any sense.”
TAFE is responsible for $92.5 billion per year in annual economic benefit to Australia, 16 times more than the annual cost to maintain it. But these longstanding and ongoing benefits would be permanently lost if governments fail to rebuild with TAFE.
A 2020 national survey found that 94 per cent of Australians want to see more federal funding for TAFE, and research has consistently found that Australians see TAFE as a vital part of Australia’s education sector that can provide career, social and economic opportunities for people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Proper funding for TAFE will increase available courses, increase the number of campuses, and ensure high quality vocational education that will improve the lives of millions of Australians.
Correna said: “Australians trust and support TAFE and know the system can help re-build our economy, but we need our governments and politicians to show that same support by investing in TAFE to rebuild Australia socially and economically.
“TAFE touches so many aspects of our society and economy, from the arts and fashion, to construction, health and early childhood education, to opportunities for young people in rural and regional areas, and we cannot afford to lose it.
“As we head to the next federal election, all political parties must commit to rebuilding with TAFE, and we’ll be campaigning to make sure they understand how important this issue is to our communities.”