TDA: finally a fair deal for TAFE on higher education

TDA   |   14 May 2013

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Concerns for apprenticeship students with cost shift from grants to loans.


Advocacy initiated by TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) over more than four years has emerged successful, with Budget 2014 overhauling Federal course funding contributions toward students enrolling in higher education courses at TAFE Institutes and non-university institutions.

The deregulation of higher education, to take place from 1 January 2016, is listed as one of three features of Budget 2014, along with the Infrastructure Growth Package, and the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

Student loans for apprenticeship students is the major feature for skills in the Budget. The student loans will replace traditional apprenticeship payments for completions of staged course segments. Student loans will be offered up to $8,000 in Year 1, $6000 in Year 2, $4000 in Year 3, and $2000 in Year 4.


For tertiary higher education deregulation, universities, TAFEs and private colleges will be free to set higher education student course fees. Universities will now also access funding for diploma and advanced diploma courses. Additional revenue raised by all higher education providers – $1 for every $5 raised – will be required for contributions to Commonwealth Scholarships for low income students. The Budget estimates the extension of Commonwealth Supported Place funding (to non-universities) will cost $448.9 million over three years. The funding of higher education diploma, advanced diploma and associate degree courses will cost $371.5 million over three years.


The Budget will provide a $10,000 grant to employers who employ Australians over 50 years of age who has been on unemployment benefits or the Disability Support Pension for six months. Treasurer Joe Hockey in his Budget Speech said the payment was part of a new “culture” supporting workforce participation in older workers. Employers can use the $10,000 funding to assist employees to re-skill, and play a more active role in the workforce.


Industry Minister Hon Ian Macfarlane was successful in including an Industry Skills Fund (ISF) costing $476 million over four years. The ISF will largely replace Labor’s National Workforce Development Fund, operated under the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, now abolished. Co-contributions from business applicants will remain, with a focus on health and biomedical products, mining, oil and gas equipment and technology services, advanced manufacture including defence and aerospace.


A $155 million Growth Fund will be established to support new jobs in Victoria and South Australia, directed at workers affected by car industry closures. The Budget announced that Holden and Toyota have pledged their own Skills and Training Program to transition auto workers into new jobs through skills recognition and training.


Apprenticeship students will be hit. The Budget will axe payments totalling $5,000 for apprentices as they complete each stage of their course, instead introducing student loans for apprentices. The loans will be offered up to $8,000 in Year 1, $6000 in Year 2, $4000 in Year 3, and $2000 in Year 4. Apprentices will get a 20% discount or $4000 if they complete their apprenticeship and effectively access contingent loans designed to drive completions.
Apprenticeship Centres will initially administer the student loans, until consideration of a new Australian Apprenticeship Centre contract. The ATO will administer loan repayments, for those with commencing incomes exceeding $53,343 in 2014-15.

Savings of $1 billion across skills and training were included in the Budget Papers (No 2), with 10 Federal programs axed, and cutting 647 jobs in the Industry portfolio. The axed programs are:

• National Partnership Agreement on Training Places for Single Parents

• Accelerated Australian Apprenticeship Program

• Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program

• National Workforce Development Fund

• Workplace English Language & Literacy Program

• Alternate Pathways Program

• Apprenticeship to Business Owner Program

• Productive Ageing through Community Education

• Australian Apprenticeship Access Program

• Step into Skills Program

TAFE Institutes have considerable delivery responsibility for English programs, which will significantly impact new arrivals studying in Australia.


A Budget ‘sleeper’ may benefit TAFE facilities and asset renewal. This remains a key issue to enable TAFEs to compete with skills delivery across the 58 TAFE Institutes – spanning 1,300 campus locations in CBD, suburban, regional and remote locations. The Budget Papers (No 1) described the Infrastructure Growth Package as providing incentives for state and territory governments to “…recycle, sell and reinvest assets and reinvest proceeds into productive economic infrastructure.” TDA will launch robust advocacy for this to include the multi-billion TAFE asset portfolio, with benefits returning to maximise TAFE competition under new competitive entitlement funding which remains intact under the Budget 2014.


Funds totalling $2.55 billion will be offered for special projects contracted under an Emissions Reduction Fund. Payment will be made as abatement is achieved, and details will be released post-Budget.


The Budget will fund $156 million for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Funding will target infrastructure to increase Gold Coast construction jobs. TDA will seek support for a focus on training, with TAFE critical to the success of the prior major events, the Sydney Olympics and Melbourne Commonwealth Games.


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