Recently again, my news feeds, social media and other outlets have been jammed with the AEU, Greens and Labor people talking about the war on TAFE and that non-public providers are causing the death of TAFEs in Australia. To be fair I understand what is going on here;
- A not insubstantial number of AEU members in various states are TAFE workers. In fact the overwhelming majority of AEU members from the VET sector come from TAFE. It therefore makes sense that the AEU vigorously pushes the TAFE bandwagon. Less TAFE staff means (probably) less AEU members, making them a less relevant voice in the VET sector.
- The Greens with their deep ideological commitments to public provision of a wide range of things including education and a VET policy that says no funding should go to non-public providers at all, coupled with a solid understanding of their voting base, means that there is a war on TAFE, resonates with their political agenda and makes them more palatable to their voters.
- Labour. Well with deep connections to the Union movement, a lean towards the left, and again a good understanding of their ‘true believers’ talking up the death of TAFE makes sense. It also helps that they can use it to kick the government as well.
The fact that these are the main groups behind the various save our TAFEs movements makes it pretty clear that a lot of the rhetoric around this and a lot of the negative press leveled at the non-public side of VET is, well, driven by political and ideological agendas.
Now two things before I go on. Firstly let me make it abundantly clear that the position taken by the government and its advisory groups are, just as much as with the groups above, driven by ideological and political agendas. Secondly, as I have said so many times before, we need to have a strong efficient and effective public VET education system in this country, losing it would be a loss for Australia. However, we also need a vibrant and well supported non-public system as well.
Let us then jump away from the rhetoric and agendas and just look at some facts however, and then perhaps we can make some considered conclusions about some of the recent rhetoric. Now bear in mind these facts have come from data publicly released by NCVER.
Myth Number One: Private RTOs have grown out of control.
Fact Number One: A small number of private providers (and some TAFEs) substantially increased their enrolments mostly on the back of the flawed VET fee help scheme. However 47% of all non-public VET providers have less than 1,000 Students.
Myth Number Two: TAFE provides a far better quality of training than non-public providers.
Fact Number Two: If we look at the Employers’ use and views of the VET system 2017 report from NCVER we can see that Employers report a 91.5% satisfaction with private providers against 85.6% with TAFE as well as an 82.9% satisfaction rate for the delivery to apprentices and trainees as opposed to 81.8% for TAFE.
Myth Number Three: Private providers cherry pick students and courses and leave TAFE to do the heavy lifting with remote, disadvantaged, disabled and indigenous students.
Fact Number Three: Private providers actually deliver to 50% of all indigenous students, 43% of all students with a disability, 54% of the most disadvantaged students, and more than half of all remote and very remote students.
Myth Number Four: TAFE does the vast majority of the training of trainees and apprentices.
Fact Number Four: Non-public providers delivered 45% of apprentice and trainee enrollments.
So I am just going to leave those here for you to think about for a little while and remember the old saying ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Have a great weekend everyone.