There is a massive risk that Western Australia is heading down the same path as Victoria in the privatisation of TAFE Colleges.
The Australian Education Union’s TAFE Secretary Pat Forward arrived in Perth overnight for talks with the State School Teachers’ Union and with WA’s Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier to discuss the issue.
“Western Australia risks following Victoria where training delivery by TAFE has dropped from 75% in 2008 to only 45.6% today,” said Ms Forward.
“During the same period, private providers have grown from 14% of market share to 46%, overtaking TAFE for the first time in Australia’s history,” she added.
The number of private providers grew overnight in Victoria, from around 200 in 2008 to about 700 today, according to Ms Forward.
“Private providers in Victoria have been associated with poor quality delivery, many offering diplomas which take 12 – 18 months at TAFE in 5 days, or over a weekend. The quality of vocational education in Victoria is under threat, as the government moves to privatise the TAFE sector,” she said
Victoria’s 18 TAFE institutes were all operating with healthy budget surpluses in 2007. Today, many face financial ruin, and some have already approached the Victorian government to seek approval for operating deficits. Many will not survive the next few months, with some predicting that the number of TAFE institutes in Victoria will be reduced over the next few months. TAFEs in regional areas have been particularly hard hit.
The Victorian government cut a further $300m from TAFEs in the recent budget, punishing TAFE for a significant $400m budget blowout. All the additional funds had gone to private providers, many of whom were dodgy, with no track record of quality delivery of training.
“The risk for Western Australia is that the Barnett Government is considering similar reforms to its TAFE system. “Already, 50% of public funding (state and federal) for TAFE in WA is open to competition from private, for-profit providers. The Barnett government is currently considering open its training market to an entitlement system, where all government funds will be open to private providers, and where there will be no guarantee of funding to TAFE.
“WA risks going down the same path as Victoria, where in the last few weeks TAFE directors have had to cut hundreds of courses, and turn away thousands of students from TAFE. More than 2,200 TAFE workers will lose their jobs over the next six months, and students are facing increases of fees for remaining courses,” said Ms Forward.
“Course costs for students in Victoria will rise in some cases by as much as 400% as TAFE institutes try to cover funding cuts, and compete with private providers, many of whom continue to offer cash inducements and gifts like iPads in order to get young people to enrol in training.”
“The Barnett Government needs to make public its plans for TAFE in WA, The community and industry in WA needs to be assured that the WA government will not pursue the same hare-brained reforms as those which are destroying vocational education in Victoria.”