TAFE suspends mid-year enrolments amid student influx

Students due to start at one of Victoria’s largest TAFEs in just two weeks have been told not to turn up because of a shortage of work placements under Labor’s free TAFE initiative.

In a blow to the Andrews government’s flagship policy, Melbourne Polytechnic has suspended mid-year enrolments for five courses because it has been unable to accommodate an influx of students.

Mid-year enrolments have been suspended for five TAFE course at Melbourne Polytechnic
Mid-year enrolments have been suspended for five TAFE course at Melbourne Polytechnic

The institute apologised for the disruption, saying it was unable to secure enough work placements for the unprecedented student numbers.

About 200 students set to embark on a certificate III in Individual Support, certificate IV in Disability, Mental Health and Community Services and the diploma of Community Services have been affected.

The development followed revelations in The Age last week that the initiative was plagued with staff shortages, swelling class sizes and students were struggling to find placements due to the increased competition.

More than 19,000 students have flocked to free TAFE courses since the initiative was launched at the start of the year in a bid to boost enrolments and meet skills shortages. This is more than double the number of students who enrolled in these courses last year.

“The sudden growth in student numbers has caused some challenges for us as an organisation, particularly in those areas where course completion requires industry placements,” Melbourne Polytechnic chief executive Frances Coppolillo told staff in an email on Friday.

Affected students have been told they can either start their course next year, transfer to another course or move to an equivalent course at another TAFE. Melbourne Polytechnic spokeswoman Nicole Amsing said the TAFE was reviewing its processes to ensure the disruption never occurred again.

“Despite ongoing efforts, it has become clear in recent weeks that we could not guarantee work placements for all students enrolling in Semester Two in these courses,” she said.

“We had not fully anticipated the level of demand for these courses and our local partners simply do not have the capacity to provide enough placements.”

She said the changes would not affect current students.

Enrolments in the TAFE’s community services courses have ballooned from 76 to 445 under the initiative.

The Opposition’s training spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said Labor’s on-the-run pledge was failing students and compromising TAFEs.

“Labor’s implementation of Free TAFE is a shambles, with little thought to how courses are actually delivered, where students can get practical training, how to recruit teachers or improve the quality of learning,” she said.

But Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney defended the policy, saying it was providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to Victorians.

“We knew the demand for Free TAFE would be huge,” she said.

“It’s why we’ve worked closely with TAFEs since last year’s budget to employ more TAFE teachers, launch the Jobs at TAFE website and offered targeted scholarships.”

She said Melbourne Polytechnic would work closely with other TAFEs to ensure students could start their free courses as soon as possible.

The initiative has made more than 50 priority non-apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship courses free, including mental health, disability, nursing and education support.

But some industry groups, such as the Australian Community Workers Association, said they were not consulted.

The professional body, which accredits community services courses, is investigating complaints from students enrolled in four free TAFE courses, including the diploma of community services at Melbourne Polytechnic.

The Association’s chief executive Sha Cordingley said she welcomed the institute’s decision to suspend mid-year enrolments.

“We are very supportive of not putting students through courses if you can’t secure placement for them,” she said.

TAFE Directors Australia chief executive Craig Robertson said despite initial teething problems, the initiative had been a success.

“Free TAFE has been the right strategy to bring people back into vocational education because it removed financial barriers and ensured options were available across the state,” he said.

SourceAAP:https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/tafe-suspends-mid-year-enrolments-amid-student-influx-20190708-p5259g.html

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