More TAFE funding answer to reversing VET decline

The best way to reverse the fall in enrolments at government-funded vocational education providers is to restore funding to TAFE and return it to being the primary provider of vocational education in Australia.

According to a new report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), student numbers, subject enrolments and training hours at public vocational training providers all fell in 2018.

AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Maxine Sharkey said that the Morrison Government’s obsession with private vocational education providers at the expense of TAFE was already hurting the career prospects of thousands of Australians who need access to affordable and high quality vocation education.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. However, it’s clear that years of funding cuts and official disinterest by successive Federal Coalition governments have left TAFE, our world-class publicly-owned vocational education provider, in a weakened state,” Ms Sharkey said.

“This has resulted in falling student numbers and TAFE campus closures. The solution is quite simple. We need a strong public TAFE sector that is fully funded.”

According to the NCVER figures, in 2018, compared with 2017:

  • estimated student numbers decreased by 1.9%
  • subject enrolments decreased by 5.7%
  • hours and full-year training equivalents (FYTEs) decreased by 6.4%

The figures also reveal that since 2013, the year the Federal Coalition was elected, the number of students in government-funded vocational education has fallen by 25%, from 1.48 million to 1.1 million. In addition, the number of hours of vocational education delivered has fallen by 28% between 2013 and 2018.

“The introduction of private-for profit education providers has been a disaster for Australia’s vocational education system,” Ms Sharkey said.

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education – they are interested in profits.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’ (read TAFE) out of business. Then it can jack up its prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Sharkey said.

“The Australian Skills Quality Authority, the Government’s own regulator, said parts of the Australian training market are already in a race to the bottom. The Productivity Commission has described the Australian VET system as a mess.”

Ms Sharkey said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Sharkey said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

TDA Newsletter- TAFEs and private colleges to collaborate following landmark South Australian agreement


Let’s test VET’s value proposition – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

There’s been encouraging news for vocational education this past fortnight or so. On separate occasions the Prime Minister and Minister for Skills, Senator Michaelia Cash have said:

“We believe that learning through a vocational education is just as valuable as a university degree, so we want to transform the way we deliver skills, support employers and fund training.”

Word for word – a unity ticket. A good one.

It’s unusual in political discourse but in this case, I suspect it’s by design.

Both sides of politics have similar aspirations for the sector. In February 2018 in announcing a review of post-school education if Labor were elected, Tanya Plibersek said: “Labor wants prospective students to see TAFE and uni as equally attractive study options.”

I suspect both sides of politics are reflecting the growing sentiment in the community. Whenever I mention this issue with friends and acquaintances, they are quick to say we have the balance wrong between university and TAFEs. Before universities withdraw their support for a strong TAFE, let me add, the centrality of education and training in the economic fabric of a country and its chances globally, warrants new investment in TAFE, not transfer from universities.

I’m focused on the phrase “just as valuable”. Value holds different meanings for each of us. Just because I value my tweed jacket doesn’t mean my wife does, nor that I place the same value as she would on yet another pair of shoes!

In VET the term is loaded. The sector is structured, the rhetoric is straightforward and it’s shouted loud and clear – vocational education and training is about getting a job, or a better one!

Then, what is the data telling us about the chance of success of that message. The chart below shows trends in VET students by age group. It seems young people are not responding to the VET message.

Do job outcomes for those who choose the VET option stack up? Last November KPMG released research by NATSEM on the wage and earnings return from VET and higher education compared to completing Year 12[1]. VET does not fare well as the chart for males shows. For females the wage return is better from completing Year 12 than VET.

 

The report acknowledges that enrolments in catch-up VET courses dampens the returns. That’s a point worth contemplating. If that training is catch-up as it is supposed to be (Certificate II is equivalent to Year 12 as the policy goes) then those students should have earnings equivalent to Year 12. Then, for the remainder, about 70 per cent by my calculations, completing Certificate III or higher, you would contemplate higher outcomes. This makes the overall result for the sector more disappointing.

Some will say that the VET outcome measures collated by NCVER tell us students are satisfied with the training. That may be the case, but it’s difficult to draw conclusions from such subjective feedback. Their feedback about their jobs is more objective though. The same student survey tells us that of the 62 per cent of the students in employment at the start of their training, just over one-fifth reported getting a job at a higher skill level! Of those without work when they started, one-in-two got a job! For the 74 per cent of students who cite a job benefit from training, remember one of the three responses which give rise to this measure is simply a positive response to “received a job-related benefit.” I’m not sure these figures stack up for a sector selling jobs.

KPMG’s report cites Dame Alison Wolf, someone of enormous value to TVET across the globe, as saying: “Teenagers are entirely rational in their quest for academic qualifications … these seem to pay much better on average than vocational ones, as well as opening-up far more alternatives in a mobile changing economy.”

I recall friends from KPMG almost apologising for publishing the report. There’s little they could do. The question is what governments can do.

What can we draw from the Government’s statements? The aim is to be applauded but the path will not be easy. One thing that will help is Minister Cash’s commitment to a co-design process for implementation of the 2019 Budget measures such as the Skills Commission and Skills Organisations.

I say, give TAFEs a chance to stretch the value proposition. After all, they know a thing or two about skills for their communities and the aspiration of the students they serve.


TAFEs and private colleges to collaborate following landmark South Australian agreement

Private training colleges will have access to TAFE campuses and will share resources and coordinate on course offerings under an MOU between TAFE SA and the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA-SA), signed last week.

The Minister for Education John Gardner said the agreement will see the organisations working together through joint policy priorities, professional development initiatives, closer liaison regarding the scope of delivery offered by providers, and access for independent providers to publicly owned resources.

TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman said the closer relationship between the sectors would ensure that local education and training needs are being met.

“TAFE SA will contribute by providing access to our campuses for other training providers and businesses, sharing professional development opportunities and making sure that the right training for future needs of industry is being provided,” he said.

ITECA’s South Australian Executive Officer Dr Joy de Leo said the state would obtain greater value from the increased use of taxpayer-funded facilities with benefits going ultimately to those in receipt of training.

See more.


Response to Victorian free TAFE courses shows the value of a TAFE qualification

The overwhelming student response to Victoria’s free TAFE initiative demonstrates the pent up demand for new skills after years of upheaval in the sector, TAFE Directors Australia says.

TDA CEO Craig Robertson said the despite some initial teething problems, the free TAFE roll-out showed that Victorians value a VET pathway and that many had been held back by upfront costs or concern about the state of the training sector.

“The undoubted success of Free TAFE in Victoria reveals more about the aspirations of Victorians for career change and new work opportunities than initial teething problems reported in The Age,” Mr Robertson said.

“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.

“All of the sector is rebuilding, especially after the disaster of VET FEE-HELP which saw many sudden closures of private providers, leaving students stranded and TAFEs picking up the pieces.

“But it would be naive to think that upheaval hasn’t impacted TAFEs. They are also rebuilding and some teething problems in the face of such demand is understandable,” Mr Robertson said.

See TDA’s media release.


Dozens of training colleges affected by ASQA regulatory hit

Dozens of training colleges have had their registrations cancelled by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), in one of the regulator’s largest single crackdowns.

A total of 61 training providers were notified in late June that their registration as VET providers was cancelled. A further three colleges had their registrations suspended and two had renewals rejected by ASQA.

Some of the cancellations appear due to relatively minor oversights.

ASQA says the cancellations were the result of providers not operating consistently with the requirements of the VET Quality Framework, or with data provision requirements, including failing to complete and lodge annual declarations by the due date.

Training providers subject to an adverse regulatory decision have the right to have the decision reviewed, and a provider may, in certain circumstances, apply to have ASQA reconsider its decision.

See the latest ASQA regulatory decisions update


VET stakeholders to have a say in design of new national skills agency

The federal government will embark on a “co-design” approach with key stakeholders in developing the new National Skills Commission that will oversee the country’s VET sector.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash told the NCVER ‘No Frills’ conference last Thursday that the government’s skills policy agenda would “promote a national approach to skills development and enhance the role of industry in designing training packages.”

“We will establish a new National Skills Commission – to provide leadership on workforce needs and VET funding,” Senator Cash said.

“A national co-design process will determine the functions, remit and governance of the new Commission.

“The Australian Government is committed to a VET system that puts industry at its heart,” she said.

As recommended by the Joyce Review, the commission will determine subsidy levels for government funded training, administer Commonwealth funding to the VET sector, develop performance indicators and produce skills needs forecasts.

Minister Cash said departmental projections show that seven out of the ten fastest growing occupations have a VET qualification pathway.

See the Minister’s address to NCVER.


TAFE Queensland to feature at national apprenticeship conference

TAFE Queensland students and staff will take centre stage at the upcoming National Apprentice Employment Network conference ‘Beyond 2020’ on the Gold Coast, July 31 – August 2.

The conference will look at the future of VET and apprenticeships with speakers including the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons; the Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek; and the architect of the Commonwealth VET review, Steven Joyce.

The event will hear from John Tucker and Erik Salonen from TAFE Queensland SkillsTech, and will see a panel discussion with representatives from TAFE, private RTOs, Training Services NSW and Tradeswomen Australia on the future of apprenticeships, facilitated by Australian Industry Group’s Megan Lily.

The conference dinner, sponsored by TAFE Queensland, will feature TAFE hospitality and service students, and hear from WorldSkills Australia ‘Skillaroo’ Anthony Cobb ahead of the WorldSkills international competition in Kazan, Russia next month.

See more


TAFE SA campuses remain but with reduced footprint

The South Australian government has decided against closing the TAFE campus in the Adelaide suburb of Urrbrae, but TAFE’s presence will be scaled back in several locations.

Education Minister John Gardner said TAFE SA will maintain its presence at the Urrbrae campus and continue the delivery of horticulture training, after meeting its savings targets and by  providing underutilised space to the Urrbrae Agricultural High School, which is co-located at the site.

However, the minister confirmed TAFE’s Port Adelaide campus will close in January.

TAFE SA will maintain a presence at Roxby Downs, Wudinna and Coober Pedy campuses but in a scaled back form.

Mr Gardner said the government was focused on supporting TAFE to become more competitive as a training provider.

“This announcement allows TAFE to continue to deliver specialist courses on sites where they can be best delivered, while reducing and consolidating underutilised spaces,” he said.

See more.


Diary Dates

CISA (Council of International Students Australia) National Conference
15-19 July 2019
Perth, Western Australia
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
More information

QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

VTA 2019 State Conference 
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
Melbourne
More information

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
Brisbane
More information

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
More Information

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual onference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 Decemer 2019
Charles Stut University Wagga Wagga Campus
More informtion

SourceAAP:https://www.tda.edu.au/newletter/lets-test-vets-value-proposition-comment-by-ceo-craig-robertson/

Marshall Govt’s VET plan will privatise TAFE by stealth

The Marshall Government’s new VET plan shows it is determined to sell South Australia’s TAFE system to the highest bidder and allow private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE students.

The plan will give profit-seeking private training providers access to TAFE SA sites at the same time that TAFE budgets in South Australia are being slashed.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe warned other states and territories not to follow suit, saying it would severely impact the ability of Australians to access affordable, high-quality vocational education. She said it would leave hundreds of thousands of trainees and apprentices across Australia at the mercy of profit-seeking private training providers.

“The Marshall Government’s agenda on vocational education is clear. It plans to wash its hands of responsibility for VET by privatising TAFE SA and allowing private training providers to line their pockets at the expense of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It’s clear that big business is aligning with Liberal governments at both a state and federal level in a push to squeeze TAFE out completely and hand responsibility for vocational education to private providers.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’-that means TAFE-out of business. Then it can jack up prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. It has proudly provided vocational education for generations of Australians in everything from plumbing to nursing, childcare and IT.”

“The Marshall Government’s plan is a poorly-disguised bid by private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE by hiding behind words like ‘choice’ and competition’,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Marshall Government’s new plan was the culmination of a years-long campaign to slash budgets and government support for TAFE SA:

  • SA government-funded VET student numbers have reduced from 150,000 in 2013 to just 63,000 in 2017
  • The SA Government’s total recurrent VET funding contribution has been cut by 40% since 2013, with recurrent VET expenditure per person now the second lowest in the country (after NSW)
  • Thirteen TAFE SA campuses have closed and more than 700 jobs have been lost, while moreTAFE campuses were earmarked for closure in the 2018 state budget

Ms Haythorpe said the moves by the Marshall Government to marginalise TAFE SA and favour private training providers were reflected nationally.

“Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a robustly funded and administered public TAFE and vocational education sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This anti-TAFE push is gathering speed. In its first Federal Budget the Morrison Government included no additional specified funding for TAFE-amazingly, it failed to mention TAFE at all.”

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education. ITECA represents profit-seeking private education providers and is focused on taking government TAFE funding and giving it to private providers,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Haythorpe said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

ITECA – TAFE SA Partnership Heralds New Training Era In South Australia

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) represents independent providers in the higher
education, vocational education and training sectors. It has entered into a new agreement with TAFE SA that
is designed to foster collaboration bet ween independent and pubic providers of vocational education and
training (VET) and TAFE SA to support students get the skills they need to support a growing economy.

The agreement will see ITECA and TAFE SA working together through joint policy priorities, professional
development initiatives, closer liaison regarding the scope of delivery offered by providers and access for
independent providers to publicly owned resources.

“This is an important agreement that signals the intent of the ITECA membership and TAFE SA to provide
the workforce with the skills that the South Australian workforce will need into the future,” said Troy
Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

Beyond looking at what type of training is most needed, the agreement also paves the way for independent
providers to use TAFE SA’s facilities to support the provision of courses.

“This innovative agreement will enable all education and training providers, both public and independent.

to complement each other ensuring maximum benefit from the expertise and resources available in the
VET sector. As a result, South Australia will obtain greater value from the increased use of taxpayer -funded
facilities with benefits going to those in training.” Mr Williams said.

The South Australia n Education Minister, John Gardne r MP, said that this agreement is an important step
that ensures government and industry are working together to deliver the workforce South Australia needs
in the future.

“South Australian students and employers are the biggest winners from this announcement, which will see
both organisations strive to better coordinate course offerings and ensure the needs of industry across the
state are being met,” Minister Gardner said.

The ITECA State Of The Sector Report shows that in 2019 there were of the VET students resident in South
Australia, 134,700 were with an independent Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and 52,1200 with
TAFE SA.

“Th ese student numbers highlight the importance of th e relationship between the ITECA membership and
TAFE SA in suppo rting the training and reskilling of South Australia. It’s an agreement that serves as a
model for what can be achieved nationally when independent providers and the public TAFE system look at
the student needs and develop collaborative approaches that pu ts them first,” Mr Williams said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Concerns for TAFE SA following MOU sell out

The Australian Education Union (SA Branch) has raised serious concerns over today’s announcement by Minister Gardner regarding the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between TAFE SA and the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA).

The agreement opens the door to private providers taking up residence at TAFE sites, directing policy and cherry picking the delivery of profitable courses.

ITECA is open about actively pursuing its reform agenda by increasing its private provider members’ share of the vocational education and training sector.

Australian Education Union South Australian President Howard Spreadbury is wary of how TAFE SA and ITECA will work together under this new agreement.

“The two organisations are in direct competition within the same market. Minister Gardner’s statement confirms he will allow private providers to further erode TAFE’s market share, compromise its independence and allow ITECA to push its own agenda,” said Mr Spreadbury.

Instead the AEU is calling for the Marshall Liberal Government to recognise the value of TAFE SA and to return appropriate investment levels, suggesting this would be a more effective way to make it more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

“TAFE SA is the largest provider of vocational education and training in the state and must be valued for its place within the community. TAFE SA provides quality education that is accessible to all, offering pathways for many who may otherwise miss out on opportunities.”

The AEU asserts that TAFE SA is already responsive to the needs of employers and works with industry groups to deliver quality training to build a skilled and sustainable workforce for South Australia.

There are concerns about how TAFE SA facilities may be used in the future. It may end up being more ‘competitive’ for TAFE SA under its new management to lease out its facilities rather than provide courses for students.

“It is like having a ‘fire sale’ after the place has been gutted. Instead of supporting and investing in TAFE SA, the Marshall Government is surrendering its responsibility and handing it over to private providers who are driven by profit,” said Mr Spreadbury.

“Letting private providers access taxpayer-funded facilities and set up in direct competition on TAFE SA’s own doorstep has the potential to undermine TAFE program delivery.”

/Public Release.

Australia’s VET system set to shape our future workforce

The Morrison Government’s renewed commitment to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector will make it central to shaping Australia’s workforce for the future.

Speaking at the 28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference today, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said she would lift the profile of Australia’s VET sector and aim to make it the first choice in post-school learning for millions of Australians.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” Minister Cash said.

More than 4 million people undertook vocational education and training in 2017. At the end of last year, there were more than a quarter of a million apprentices and trainees.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government already has in place a number of programs and tools designed to increase the profile of the sector and encourage more Australians to choose a VET qualification.

“These programs will be especially important because, as our economy evolves and our workforce changes, VET will be the way we train and re-train the workforce of the future.

Minister Cash also delivered a message to education providers of the VET sector that more cooperation with industry was required to create better outcomes for students.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience. Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs, and have clear, consistent funding.

And with the growth in the VET sector, Minister Cash said there was always room for improvements.

“The sector still bears some of the scars of Labor’s mismanagement of bad student loans, underfunded courses, quality issues and the diminishing of TAFE.

“It is this Government’s promise to continue the hard work of reforming the sector, providing better quality courses, and better outcomes for trainees and employers.”

The Australian Government’s $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in the April Budget will also ensure that the sector can help supply Australia’s future workforce.

The package provides every Australian with the opportunity to grow the skills needed to succeed in an evolving workforce and, concurrently offers employers a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.

Minister Cash said the package reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to growing the number of new apprenticeships.

“Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia to the value of $8 million.

“The Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,” Minister Cash said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

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

Harsh lesson from rushed TAFE scheme

The issues caused by the boost in enrolments in the vocational training system only months into Labor’s marquee free TAFE scheme are not simply those of managing the problems of success, as the state government claims.

‘‘Saving TAFE’’ was a key plank of Labor’s policy platform ahead of the 2014 Victorian election and part of its ambitious Education State agenda. But rebuilding the system hasn’t been easy, with private training college scandals damaging the reputation of the vocational education sector.

With enrolments down 40 per cent at some providers, the government had to find a way of luring students back to the beleaguered sector. Unfortunately, while the free TAFE policy has good intentions and benefited large numbers of people, it has been rushed and, as reported in The Agethis week, some institutions have been unprepared for the influx of students.

This is not about whether vocational training is a crucial part of the education sector, but how it might be best provided.

Some institutions have been unprepared for the influx of students.
Some institutions have been unprepared for the influx of students.CREDIT:THINKSTOCK

The aims were to increase enrolments within the capacity of the system and respond to skills shortages, but the free TAFE initiative failed to cap places, and a surge of 19,000 has swamped the system, creating a critical lack of teachers and class sizes that inhibit effective learning.

The TAFEs should not have allowed such a flood without first ensuring adequate resources and an effective structure in which supply of teachers adequately meets demand. The funds are available – the government has budgeted $1.3billion.

It should not have been a surprise that the supply of free education at a time of relatively high youth unemployment would substantially increase demand for those courses. Enrolments in the more than 50 courses the Andrews government has made free have doubled. They include mental health, disability, nursing and education support.

Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney’s assertion that the initiative is an ‘‘undeniable success’’ tells only half the story. ‘‘We knew it was going to be challenging and take time, but it’s a challenge we are up for,’’ she said.

The challenge should have been met head-on with the hiring of extra teachers – or at least evidence that enough teachers were available – before enrolments were thrown open so widely.

The consistent element of the sector’s seemingly endless swinging between urgent expansion and existential crisis is a concern and suggests politicians, public servants and service providers have not fully heeded lessons from previous problems and failed policies in the sector. And, as ever, a lack of due diligence is fuelled by a lack of transparency and accountability.

Governments’ attempts to boost vocational training have in some cases undermined it, damaging students’ trust and the credibility of some providers, saddling young people with undue debts, enriching rorters and costing billions of taxpayer dollars.

There are many fine educators in vocational training, and free TAFE is an excellent initiative, but only if it is rolled out with an effective and holistic strategy in place. A training sector lacking in skills is unlikely to solve the nation’s lack of skills.

sourceAAP:https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/harsh-lesson-from-rushed-tafe-scheme-20190705-p524ix.html

International students destroy Australia’s productivity future

Last week, Adrian Blundell-Wignall – former director of the OECD, an adjunct professor at Sydney University and author of Globalisation and Finance at the Crossroads – penned the following in The AFR on how to “turbocharge Australia’s productivity”, which claimed that “better education output is central to future productivity growth”:

More generally, the “plan” should be a framework that provides a research-and-innovation culture and policy certainty. The plan should recognise that better education output is central to future productivity growth.

After reading this diagnosis, it immediately sprung to mind that Australia is doing the complete opposite on the “better education output” front.

As has been reported repeatedly on this site, Australia’s tertiary education system has morphed from “higher learning” to “higher earner”, with universities turned into ‘degree factories’ for maximum profit.

Nowhere is this more evident than with our universities’ ruthless pursuit of international students, whose numbers have nearly doubled over the past six years:

This surge in numbers has driven the share of international students studying at Australia’s universities to alarming heights:

In fact, if the current trajectory of international student numbers is maintained, then the share of international students will soon overtake domestic students.

Australia’s universities and the federal government have actively sought international students because of the lucrative fees on offer. This is illustrated clearly by the below chart from NSW Auditor-General:

As well as the below graphic from the ABC showing the export income associated with the surge in student numbers:

While universities and government always talk up the financial dividends from international students, they refuse to acknowledge the broader costs to productivity associated with the boom in international student numbers.

The recent Four Corners expose on Australia’s international student trade exposed these costs, presenting damning evidence that Australia’s universities have badly lowered entry and teaching standards in a bid to entice large numbers of lower-quality, full fee-paying international students, most of whom lack basic English language skills.

separate Four Corners report aired in 2015 similarly documented widespread cheating, plagiarism and fraud by international students at Australia’s universities.

Alongside ballooning international student numbers, the ratio of students to academic staff at Australia’s universities has materially worsened, increasing from 20.05 in 2009 to 21.44 in 2017:

This is a clear metric showing that education quality has been eroded, especially when viewed alongside most international students being of Non English-Speaking Backgrounds and, therefore, having higher needs than native English-speaking domestic students.

Basically, Australia’s future productivity has been put at risk from the commercialisation of Australia’s universities into ‘degree factories’. Education has been turned into a commodity to be sold for maximum profit, rather than a tool for up-skilling the population.

SourceAAP:www.macrobusiness.com.au