Final Report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce | 6 November 2012
The final report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce, established in June to advise the government on reform of the VET sector, differs little from its interim report in September. It recommends a radical overhaul of industrial arrangements, and the closure of 38 of the state’s 82 TAFE campuses (without specifying which ones). The final report does, however, propose a timetable for transition to full contestability for public funding, beginning 1 July 2013 on a limited basis, with full implementation from 1 July 2014. The Taskforce recommends that the actual amount of contestable funding be subject to “finalising the cost of the TAFE owner’s base cost”, which the Taskforce describes as “the ‘non-market’ services of the public provider”, presumably something like the $190 million in comprehensive service funding the Victorian government has cut from its TAFE system.
The Taskforce also recommends the establishment of a Queensland Skills Commission, subsuming Skills Queensland and taking over many of the current responsibilities of the Queensland education and training department, The Commission would:
- conduct/commission labour market research and analysis to identify skills demand that in turn drives productivity growth in the broader economy
- design solutions that meet the economy’s skills needs in the short, medium and long term and support small, medium and large enterprises
- invest public funds into skills formation leading to skilled employment outcomes for the State within an increasingly contestable VET funding environment.
The Taskforce “agrees that there is a role for a public provider of VET in Queensland and that role is one of training for economic and employment priorities” (it would have been astonishing if it had concluded otherwise) but it clearly sees this as a somewhat diminished role.
It recommends the establishment of a “TAFE Queensland “parent entity” outside the current department structure as a statutory body, in a way that provides a potential future opportunity to transition to a more commercially focused organisational form (including potentially a Government Owned Corporation)”. This would incorporate the 11 TAFE institutes that currently come under the department although it’s not clear how the two institutes that are already statutory authorities (Southbank and Gold Coast) would be treated under this model.
The Taskforce reports that its consultations “identified an almost universal view that the current industrial relations arrangements restrict flexibility in terms of hours of work and staff utilisation, create uncompetitive costs and are inconsistent and out of date with current training arrangements and strategies. It recommends sweeping changes to the industrial relations framework to deliver improvements in flexibility and productivity.
Together with the “rationalisation” of the TAFE campus network (that is, closure of up to 38 existing campuses/sites), the report recommends institutional mergers to create from the the existing 13 institutes five geographically focused institutes (including a single Brisbane Metropolitan institute) plus SkillsTech Australia as the new parent entity’s lead subsidiary on trade skills training. Should the CQU/CQIT merger not proceed, CQIT could form another region. The Taskforce does acknowledge that, “appropriately, these are decisions for Government and the new TAFE Queensland parent entity.”
Queensland Training Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the government will consider “the potential ramifications” of the recommendations. He didn’t want anyone “jumping to conclusions that recommendations from an independent taskforce are ones that the government will just accept.”
The Commonwealth minister Chris Evans expressed concern about the extent of proposed campus closures and a possible decrease in students and increase in the cost
To cut the capacity of Queensland TAFE in half would seriously undermine the national training effort and see many students denied the opportunity to gain the skills and training needed in our modern economy.
- While a “tight” two-year transition to full contestability is proposed, TDA stresses the caveat of a base funding review of the public provider (TAFE) network would be required before changes proceed.
- TDA will seek further detail on the Queensland Taskforce proposals for a record 38 campus closures – mainly across regional Queensland – and investment to sustain an increase in skills delivery to industry.
- TDA noted that the Taskforce Report was “openly critical of Queensland’s dwindling financial commitment to skills, the need to improve school to skills pathways, and the need for greater and more effective investment”.