The Australian | 31 July 2013
The report cites an “overall increase in skills investment, over $300 million per year”, yet four sentences later accuses the government of cutting VET funding. The fact is that in Labor’s last year of government it was spending $800m a year on training and this year the Coalition government is spending more than $1.2 billion.
This record investment is funding more training in areas of need. We have assigned greater subsidies to skills shortages and areas of training important to the economy. Training in these areas has shifted from 49 per cent of total training last year to 65 per cent. TAFEs provide 75 per cent of this training and are receiving increased payments to do so.
The system I inherited from the previous Labor government had no appropriate architecture to oversee behaviour in a new training market. We have seen the excessive growth in training not matched by employment outcomes, opportunistic behaviour by some providers motivated by quick profits, and industry left with no meaningful input in a market-driven system.
We have removed more than 100 training providers this year and implemented a tougher auditing regime that has so far involved $10m returned from providers rorting the system.
The new Victorian Skills Gateway is allowing students to make better decisions about their training options and direct engagement is putting industry in the driving seat of the refocused system.
I would be the first to agree that much of what occurs in TAFE is special and continues to serve Victorians well. But does that mean it cannot stand on its own feet and prosper in an open market, as the report argues?
TAFEs are businesses with a worldwide presence and turnovers of up to $200m annually. More training dollars are on the table than before and they are placed to win greater market share.
The world has moved on and TAFEs need to move with it. Instead of wasting money on reports harking back to “good old days” of no competition and little accountability, the Victorian TAFE Association should be supporting its members to capitalise on the opportunities the state’s system provides.
Every one of our 14 stand-alone TAFEs is receiving more money from government-subsidised training than it was under the previous government, while fee-for-service revenues are growing. Do we really think TAFEs should be paid more than the other community-owned providers for delivering the same certificate II in aged care or disability services?
In a market economy, consumers look for quality, price and service. TAFEs are well placed to compete on each of these elements.
Peter Hall is the Victorian Minister for Higher Education and Skills. This article was first published in The Australian.