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Posted in ACPET, AEU, Budget, Government, Grattan Institute, Higher education policy, La Trobe University, LH Martin Institute, Life & stuff, NMIT, Notices, Qualifications, Society, TAFE, The Scan, universities, University budgets, University reform, university staffing, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Kangan and Bendigo to “merge”

    Posted at 6:45 am
    May 21st

    15  May 2014

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    TAFE back office jobs are expected to be culled as part of a planned merger announced between Victoria’s regional Bendigo TAFE and the major Melbourne-based Kangan Institute.

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    BendigoBendigo is operating at barely break-even in the wake of state government funding cuts and a lack of scale in regional markets, which has seen Bendigo TAFE shed jobs and courses and close campuses.

    The TAFEs say the amalgamation will strengthen and expand the delivery of education and training in central Victoria. Bendigo TAFE Board Chair Margaret O’Rourke said

    The merger will lead to a revitalisation and growth of the region’s training sector, with long-term and far-reaching benefits for individuals, industry and the wider community. This includes providing current students, school leavers, existing workers and employers with more choice about the training they can undertake.

    The new institute plans to focus on three areas of training, in automotive, fashion and design and health and all 10 campuses will be retained. The plan is to offer about 55 Kangan courses at Bendigo campuses and develop a Centre of Excellence in Health and Human Services, aligned with the Bendigo Hospital now under redevelopment. .

    The merger is now dependent on the approval of the Napthine state government. It is also conditional on securing funding from the state government’s $200 million TAFE Structural Adjustment Fund.

    The fund is designed to support the public vocational education sector, hard hit by funding cuts and the introduction of private competition for government training subsidies. Last year half the state’s TAFEs lost money.

    While the TAFEs say the proposal had received “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from business and education leaders in Bendigo, local Labor MPs, Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards said the merger would be a Melbourne TAFE takeover and would be a betrayal of the Bendigo community.

    This decision has been made behind closed doors without the Bendigo community being given the opportunity to have their say. A recent survey found that 66% of local residents opposed a Melbourne take-over of Bendigo TAFE, with a further 20% unsure about its impact.

    See
    Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute agree to merge

     

    Posted in TAFE | Tagged , , , ,
  • TAFE: getting the job done

    Posted at 5:27 pm
    May 13th

    The Age | 31 March 2014

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    Writing in The Age recently (Getting the job done, The Age, March 31), Claire Field (chief executive officer for the Australian Council for Private Education and Training) observed that reform always throws up winners and losers, and the training sector is no different. According to Field, the winners in the case of market-oriented VET reforms “are industry Meredith Peaceand individual students – and taxpayers who invest billions of dollars in training and skills development. The losers are those with self-interest, and who refuse to reform at the expense of the community.” The Australian Education Union’s Meredith Peace acknowledges that it’s hard to disagree with Field on the proposition that  reform always throws up winners and losers.    Unfortunately,  says Peace, one of the big losers under Victoria’s new training market is the quality of vocational education and training.

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    Market systems have serious flaws when it comes to delivering fairly the quality education that successful modern economies and individuals require. For decades TAFE institutes have adapted to local needs and an ever-changing economy, building an enviable reputation for quality along the way. They are at the heart of our communities.

    How can they continue to do this? While TAFEs and other providers invest in staff and facilities to improve their courses or serve emerging sectors, some private providers are cutting costs and aggressively marketing courses to win a greater market share.

    invisible_hand_of_the_market1-300x199

    It’s those providers that are setting the standard in today’s market, not quality providers such as Victoria’s 18 TAFE institutes.

    Students-turned-customers are left at sea without easy access to information about the cost and quality of training, as anyone who has tried to navigate course websites will know. That access is even harder for young and disadvantaged students.

    Accurate, easily accessible information has been repeatedly flagged as fundamental to an effective vocational educational and training (VET) market. In Victoria it appears to be an afterthought.

    To make matters worse, the uncapping of VET fees means disadvantaged students are less able to afford quality education, even if they can find it. This is the inevitable consequence of the cuts revealed by the auditor-general this month – the 159% year-on-year fall in recurrent funding and 36 % cut in capital funding.

    The result is a VET system that is suffering a collapse in quality at a time when manufacturing closures, rising youth unemployment and a creeping chill in the Victorian economy make high-quality training more important than ever.

    The situation goes well beyond the anecdotal escapades of dodgy providers offering diplomas in a week. The national VET regulator last year found that more than half the training providers it sampled ‘‘were marketing qualifications that they claimed could be achieved in unrealistically short time frames or time frames that fell short of the volume of learning requirements of the Australian Qualifications Framework’’.

    Sadly, the students who have studied with those providers do not know that they have a sub-standard qualification, and even if they did, they are not allowed to re-enrol in a legitimate course at no cost.

    TAFE teachers regularly report that students arriving with qualifications from these providers do not have the skills required to move on to higher levels.

    Rural and regional Victoria is particularly affected. For-profit outfits cannot or will not step in where demand is low, and have little interest in entering cost-intensive fields such as engineering. The result for country communities is a loss of choice as TAFEs close down unaffordable courses and campuses.

    Governments must ensure that the public TAFEs are funded and supported to provide critical education and training options for local people and regional economies.

    Conversely, where demand is high, providers sense easy money. We’ve seen them flood the market with personal trainers and as taxpayers we’ve paid the price. The VET budget blow-out used by the state government to justify its massive $300 million in TAFE cuts in 2012 was due to an explosion in subsidies to private providers.

    The state government has tinkered with changes to funding for these courses, but its marriage to the market means it can no longer plan and provide the training and skills that Victoria needs.

    Ms Field says the winners under Victoria’s market reforms are ‘‘industry and individual students’’ and, yes, for some there are short-term benefits. Businesses that want their staff to have a certificate as cheaply and quickly as possible are happy, as are those that want to train employees on their own equipment in a narrow set of skills they can’t take elsewhere. So perhaps are students who need a cheap and easy qualification to become eligible for Commonwealth payments.

    But these do not justify the terrible cost borne by individuals and the Victorian economy under the ‘‘training subsidy market’’ the government has created in VET and the destruction its cuts have inflicted on TAFE as a result.

    Meredith Peace is Victorian branch president of the Australian Education Union
    Posted in ACPET, AEU, TAFE, The Scan, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , , , ,
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