Vocational training concerns

CONCERNS over the future of Gippsland’s vocational training sector were raised by education providers at an annual Australian College of Educators meeting.

The meeting which was held at the central Gippsland Institute of TAFE’s Waratah training restaurant coincided with State Skills Minister Peter Hall’s response to the Gippsland Tertiary Education Plan.

His government’s recent funding changes to the TAFE sector received strong responses from those gathered, who questioned the recent cuts.

“I know it’s tough… but I’m doing everything I possibly can as a single person to ensure the training system is appropriate and provides for the needs of our students,” Mr Hall said at the ACE meeting.

When asked if he could guarantee no campus or training centre closures, Mr Hall said “TAFEs are autonomous… and I would be extremely disappointed if there are closures of any sites of delivery”.

“I’m far more optimistic of keeping these sites open,” he said.

“There will be initial pain but there is potential for the training system to deliver well into the future.”

Mr Hall added the government’s recent announcement to establish seven technology enabled learning centres would mean “many more training programs offered by TAFEs that directly articulate into higher education”.

Comments made by TAFE providers that its pathway courses and alliances with universities could be severed as a result of the TAFE budget cuts, were refuted by Mr Hall.

“Changes to vocational training funding will actually promote greater alliance between higher education and vocational training providers,” Mr Hall said.

“We’re hoping we get a greater range of delivery of programs although it won’t probably be the same as we’ve had before.

“There will be some adjustment, but this is really a chance to put vocational training in Victoria on a sustainable basis for future expansion and delivery of training programs.”

Mr Hall’s comments and his choice of venue to announce the government’s response to the GTEP however, received criticism from Labor member for Eastern Victoria Matt Viney.

“I think many people would agree that Mr Hall’s decision to talk about a plan for education at (Gipps TAFE) Waratah (Training Restaurant), within weeks of it having to close because of his funding cuts, is both extremely ironic and very offensive,” Mr Viney said.

“I hope that Mr Hall understands that because of his decision, the students that served him dinner (on Tuesday night) will no longer have a course to continue their training.”