TAFE a substantial “public asset”

 25 November 2014

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As a Senate committee prepares to inquire into broad VET funding and regulatory issues, a cross-party House of Representatives committee has come out strongly in support of the TAFE sector and its unique economic and social contributions to communities.  

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TAFE_Enquiry-SurveyCommittee chair Ewen Jones, a Liberal National Party MP, said the “intrinsic value of TAFE as an Australian asset” had been evident throughout the inquiry.

“This report’s main message is a strong emphasis on the value of TAFE in the Australian community … and the committee believes the Australian government should acknowledge (this) with a statement through the Council of Australian Governments,”

The committee made  seven recommendations, the first being that the Australian Government should, through the Council of Australian Governments, make a value statement comprehensively defining the role of TAFE within the VET sector, together with its future direction in the competitive training market, from a national perspective (with 9 sub-points).

In an explicit recognition of TAFE’s community service role,  it notes that TAFE not only plays an essential role in the vocational and further education of Australians, it has an important role as a provider of opportunities for those in positions of disadvantage and vulnerability the significant cost of which is sometimes missed. It recommends  he government should seek to ensure that VET funding takes into account this particular community service role of TAFE .

The report says the government should work with COAG to improve funding of TAFE’s infrastructure and that national reporting should capture “the exact federal financial contribution made to TAFE and its application by state and territory governments”.

It also recommends  the government address regulatory loopholes and “concerns about the highly variable quality of training” — either through more prescriptive training packages or more “output-based” assessments.

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quote marksTAFE is not a business, it’s a public institution … [it’s] about putting back into the community.

                                                                                                              –     TAFE Community Alliance

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Opposition vocational education spokeswoman Sharon Bird said the government should adopt all recommendations of the bipartisan report:

There would be nothing more tragic than to only appreciate what we had in our public TAFE system when we had lost it.

But the AEU said the recommendations neglected “critical” areas including the subcontracting of training to unregistered providers, the lack of mandated minimum course durations, the proportion of public funding being opened up to the private sector, and the “huge profits” these funds were generating.

The report wasn’t enthusiastically received by the government.  Industry minister Ian Macfarlane said the government would discuss the report’s findings, but suggested it was unlikely to be given precedence over any other “contributions to the ongoing reform process”:

The TAFE system is a significant part of the skills and training sector, and the government is already working with the states and territories to ensure that students, apprentices and trainees get the best value out of TAFE.

 

See
TAFE: an Australian asset
Call for TAFE “value” statement
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