Students in jeopardy

PROMISES made by the State Government to secure the future of the TAFE sector in the budget aftermath have been dispelled by a Gippsland TAFE provider.

State Skills Minister Peter Hall affirmed his support for the government’s decision, in light of the public acquisition of a candid letter he sent to Victorian TAFE heads, which indicated otherwise.

He added provisions made in the budget for the Regional Facilitation Fund and a five per cent subsidy to TAFE providers would ensure their “future is one where they will continue to provide for their training needs in their local communities”.

His comments however, were refuted by GippsTAFE chief executive Peter Whitley, who said a five per cent subsidy would only equate to a “small sum”.

“From my perspective what it’s doing is taking away opportunities from our youth,” Mr Whitley said.

“How can you say as a government that we’re going to assist you to transition out of a Valley that is economically depressed, through skills, and then cut the guts out of skills?”

The Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE, which stands to lose $6.7 million up to December and a further $10.4 million after, according to Mr Whitley, is also expected to lose “at least 20 per cent” of staff in the short-term.

“The figures are terrible; the Morwell and Leongatha campuses are in severe jeopardy,” he said.

“I don’t want to close the campuses but if we suddenly lose half a class then there’s the question of keeping an empty campus open and doing nothing.”

Mr Whitley added while final year students enrolled in hospitality and fitness courses were relatively safe, students who enrolled before July this year would fall under a new fee structure as of next year.

The fee structure has been estimated to be about three times more than the current amount, in order to keep such courses viable.

“These students enrolled in good faith; even the TAFE bureaucracy wouldn’t have been able to predict this,” Mr Whitley said.

“For the government to hold up apprenticeships and the like as the only value in our community borders on a high level of discrimination.”