Forum places TAFE front and centre

RAISING awareness prior to the state election about the “devastating cuts to TAFEs” in recent years was the aim of a community meeting on Tuesday.

About 25 people attended the Australian Education Union event in Morwell to discuss changes to the Victorian TAFE system, including job losses at the newly established Federation Training, potential campus closures, increasing student fees and a shift to private education providers.

AEU Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray said politicians from all sides needed to recommit and invest in TAFEs and stop talking about it as the “VET (Vocational Education and Training) sector”.

“It hides the damage to TAFEs, when there is huge investment in the VET sector with most of the money going to the private sector for private profit,” Mr Gray said.

“We need to reinvest in TAFE to make sure TAFE recovers with pride of place in vocation.

“The TAFE issue is one that is very important to many people in the community when it comes to the election.”

The union’s Victorian vice president, Greg Barclay, said since 2011, 351 jobs across the former AdvanceTAFE and GippsTAFE had been lost and many were concerned about the loss of opportunity with courses closing.

Mr Barclay said there were also fears about Federation Training’s financial viability when it merges with Federation University Gippsland in 2016.

“There are fears that there will be a shift to training more remotely, a shift to online, or a self-directed approach to learning with the most costly element being the cost of a teacher,” Mr Barclay said.

Higher Education and Skills Minister Nick Wakeling said its number one priority as government was to ensure every student enrolled in a TAFE or training course could develop skills to lead to a rewarding and meaningful job.

Mr Wakeling said $1.2 billion had been spent on Victorian’s training system each year – 50 per cent more than Labor’s last budget in 2010.

“Commentary by the union fails to concede that it was the former Brumby Labor Government that bungled its attempts to reform the TAFE industry in 2008 by opening TAFEs up to competition from the private sector with no support,” Mr Wakeling said.