Monday, 27 June 2016

The National Scandal

"Whilst the TAFE Community Alliance welcomes the opportunity to participate in the discussion paper and to contribute to the options presented, we also want to put it clearly on the record that we are appalled at the national scandal that has been propagated through the implementation of VET FEE-HELP. It is a national scandal and we are surprised that governments have not acknowledged that it is so. $2.9 billion has been borrowed to fund VET FEE-HELP loans as of 2015, and the paper acknowledges that the Government does not expect a large proportion of these loans to be repaid. In saying this, the Government must also be acknowledging that a large proportion of these loans were inappropriately made." Read more

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Do the Parties really care about vocational education and training (VET) these elections?

Linda Simon for Pearls and Irritations: As we run up to the Federal elections, there has been more policy activity around vocational education and training than is usually the case. Even minor parties such as the Glenn Lazarus Team, have stated their support for TAFE and the need to ‘stop the cuts’. It has taken a crisis in the VET sector to get here, but many in the community would think that even stronger action is needed to turn this problem around.

Is this the vocational education and training system we need?

Hearing or reading about vocational education and training (VET) today, we expect it to be another story of rorts and wrongdoings. And it is an horrific story, a story of for-profit private providers accessing public funding and not delivering the education and training students expected. It is a story of a number of private providers using brokers to search out vulnerable and na├»ve prospective students, and signing them up to a lifetime’s debt with promises of free courses and iPads. How did we get to such a position in such a short time?

Unfortunately Australian VET students have been let down by both major parties. Federal and state governments have set about pursuing an ideology around creating open training markets with supposed choice for students as to where they will study, with funding following the student. Such entitlements have been introduced in states and territories, with significant problems, including the Victorian issue of an overwhelming number of personal trainers being qualified, despite the lack of jobs. Whilst this is just one example of a market failure, an open market dependent on public funding will of itself encourage behaviours that are focused on profit-making rather than a service of quality education.

The 2012 National Partnership Agreement between the Federal Government and the states led to a requirement for skills reform. For their share of an additional $1.7 billion, states were required to implement reforms leading to a training entitlement for eligible groups and access to an expanded system of income contingent loans through VET FEE-HELP. It is these VET FEE-HELP loans which have been the subject over the last year or so of much media interest.

These loans, like those that operate in universities, were supposedly to ensure equity in vocational education and training. Rather than making students subject to upfront fees, they could sign up to a loan which they would pay off when their earnings reached a certain threshold, currently $54,216. This would be available for courses at Diploma level and above, and a few Certificate IV courses.

The results were predictable. The number of students accessing these loans has increased from 5,262 in 2009 to around 272,000 in 2015. Public borrowing for VET FEE-HELP has increased from $26 million in 2009 to over $2.9 billion in 2015. The Federal Government does not expect a large proportion of these loans to be repaid. The average cost of VET course fees has increased from an average $4,060 in 2009 to $14,018 in 2015. There is no doubt that now many more students find the cost of undertaking a VET course truly challenging! Only six courses account for over half of all VET FEE-HELP loans, generally Diplomas in Management and Business.

This is the scandal that we are hearing and reading about. How training organisations were able to access these government funds by signing up students to courses they didn’t need, that weren’t delivered or that they did not have the capacity to undertake. When those organisations involved in such rorts were identified, a number closed their doors leaving students stranded and taking their money with them.

The Federal Government is undertaking a review of the current VET FEE-HELP system, and it is asking the right questions about safeguards that should be put in place for any new system. But unfortunately there appears to be a great difference between having the ability to ask the questions and having the courage to make the changes that are necessary. This current Government has not shown its willingness to take advice from the students and educators who matter, but rather to focus its decisions on the advice from just a small group of industry leaders.

But the other scandal that does not get the same attention, is that of our public TAFE system. There are now over 4000 providers of vocational education and training in this country. Do we need 4000 providers? Can we afford to regulate 4000 providers and ensure that they are providing students with quality vocational education and training? At the same time funding for vocational education and training has declined 31.5% over the last ten years, with the greatest impact on TAFE, the public provider. Government policies have led to a deliberate reduction in funding to TAFE, resulting in some TAFE Institutes becoming insolvent. The relatively new Labor government in Victoria has introduced a $320 million TAFE Rescue fund to reopen campuses and help restore confidence in the Victorian TAFE Institutes.

This is the scandal that also needs to be highlighted in this Federal election campaign. If we do need a quality vocational education and training system in this country, then we need to ensure that we maintain and fund a quality public TAFE system. This is a serious message for any party or candidate to consider in the lead-up to the elections. How can they help to ensure that the skills needed by so many Australians are delivered by qualified teachers in up-to- date facilities? It is not just the VET FEE-HELP system that needs reforming. It is time that there was a comprehensive review into the whole of vocational education and training, with the aim of ensuring a quality educational experience for all students into the future.

Linda Simon

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Greens New Website

The Greens have now released damning figures showing that it costs taxpayers seven times more to educate a student through a private college than a public TAFE.
They have launched a new website to expose the true cost of the public funding of private VET providers, with data showing that Commonwealth education funding overwhelmingly favours for profit private colleges at the expense of our high quality public TAFE sector.
Forcing TAFE to compete with private providers for funding has failed students, taxpayers and the community as a whole.
Stop privatisation before it stops TAFE! This starts with tearing up the 2012 National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform.
Time for a new agreement that abolishing contestable funding and guaranteeing that all public funding goes into the public TAFE system and puts TAFE first.
If you agree that a world without TAFE is not worth the risk, sign and share the Green's open letter calling for a commitment from all major parties to save TAFE. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Download our selfie #occupations4TAFE and join the campaign to let pollies know how many of us support TAFE and are benefiting from our TAFE experience. Just the pic will do or tell us your story in a nutshell!Upload to twitter with #occupations4TAFE @tafecomall or Facebook with same as above and tag TAFE Community Alliance or load to our instagram. None of those options take you fancy? Email it to us

‪#‎Occupations4TAFE‬ ‪#‎Electricalapprenticeship‬ at Petersham TAFE 1962-1965 In UK project managing £5b oil rig construction North Sea

Sunday, 29 May 2016

TAFE NSW calls in McKinsey, meanwhile deaf students lose out

'TAFE NSW has appointed a new tier of 14 general managers, and signed a $1.65 million contract with McKinsey to "comprehensively restructure" before an expected 2018 national takeover of vocational training.
The millions of dollars being poured into head office, at the same time as classes, teaching staff and disability support workers continue to be cut at TAFE campuses, has angered parents and students.'

Read more:
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2016 Federal Election

This Federal Election, the TAFE Community Alliance seeks a commitment from all political parties to act to ensure that the TAFE system across all states and territories is not run into the ground by continuing to implement the current suite of flawed national policies that have done great damage to our nation’s skills pool, to the quality and reputation of the VET system and, to the lives of so many individuals.