TAFE vs Uni: ‘University Is For Learning, Vet Is For Earning’ Says Skills Minister

What’s better, uni or TAFE?

In short, VET Vocational Education and Training is better than uni if your aim is to find a job and make good money.

 ‘University is for learning, VET is for earning‘ said Skills Minister Michaela Cash recently at a business breakfast, and it makes sense, according to the statistics. VET graduates earn higher salaries and have better job prospects while spending less time and money getting qualifications.

If your aim is to make money and achieve financial success, TAFE courses and VET  courses are the way to go, and following the Joyce Report government spokespeople have been highlighting TAFEas the better option for many people.

Senator Cash encouraged more people to take on VET qualifications like Diplomas, Certificates III and IV, and Advanced Diplomas, saying that it’s a better path to a good income – since the skills taught in VET and TAFE are in high demand in Australia.

‘University is for learning, VET is for earning’Michaelia Cash, Skills Minister

VET makes economic sense for Australia, too. Australia’s national skills shortages in jobs like bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and bakers, occupations demanding practical skills that are best learnt in vocational courses, or in care sectors like healthcare and community service.

By choosing a field in demand, you become a more valuable employee, enjoying higher salaries and benefits as companies compete to hire and keep you.

How is TAFE different to university?

TAFE and VET qualifications take from 6 months to 2 years, unlike university degrees which take 3 years minimum full-time. And while bachelor degrees can often cost over $30,000, TAFE and VET courses are usually much cheaper, especially as the fees for government-subsidised students are often heavily reduced.

Let’s not forget that courses in skill shortages are eligible for free TAFE – meaning that the student pays zero, zip, nada.




and you don’t even need an ATAR to get in. In fact, often you don’t even need to have finished high school.

Of course, university education has its place, but it’s not for everybody. For those who are truly interested in learning and pursuing a field of knowledge for its own sake, becoming a university student and pursuing higher education can be a gateway to a wider world of education.

Further, employment prospects are not solely determined by whether you choose VET or university, rather they depend upon the subject you choose: in-demand industries like IT and health will always have better job prospects than low-demand ones with high competition.

The problem lies in expecting that the traditional path – from high school to university to a job – still applies, or that it’s the best way to a good career path.

But generally, if you’re looking to graduate with work-ready skills, VET qualifications are the better option.

“What we are hearing from employers is that we need to ensure that you have work-ready employees from day one… that is exactly what vocational education is going to give you – for both the employee and yourself as the employer.”

– Senator Cash

Job-ready Skills

The expectation that going to uni guarantees you a good job (and a decent income) doesn’t reflect the 2019 work reality. University alone often isn’t enough to equip you with the skills to be job-ready when you graduate.


of University graduates surveyed in 2015 said their degree didn’t prepare them enough to find a job in their field.

Compare this to


of VET graduates who find employment after graduating.

Once a few years have passed and you’ve got your first full-time job, employment and levels even out to be about the same for TAFE and uni grads. Right out of the gate, though, TAFE qualifications are paid more and have a better chance of finding jobs.

Most employable degrees and qualifications

Projections from the Department of Education show that most jobs in the next 5 years (2019-2023) will require a post-secondary qualification. Out of the 10 fastest growing occupations, 7 require a TAFE or VET qualification such as a diploma or certificate.

So perhaps we should be talking about ‘most employable diplomas’ rather than degrees. The Australian industries with the highest job growth in the next four years are:

  • Medical and healthcare services: 116,000
  • Food and beverage service: 91,000
  • Construction services: 77000
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Excl Computer System design): 72,000
  • Social assistance services: 66,000

  • Public administration: 64,000
  • Preschool and school education: 57,000
  • Computer system design and related services: 54,000
  • Adult, community and other education: 40,000
  • Building and construction : 39,000

The specific jobs set to boom are:

  • General Clerks +22,200
  • Truck Drivers +16,200
  • Software And Applications Programmers +15,100
  • Advertising, Public Relations And Sales Managers +14,800
  • General Practitioners And Resident Medical Officers +14,500
  • Aged And Disabled Carers +77,400
  • Registered Nurses +65,300
  • Child Carers +25,800
  • General Sales Assistants +24,900
  • Education Aides +21,900

Source: Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business: National, State and Territory Skill Shortage Information

How much does it cost to go to TAFE? Is TAFE cheaper than uni?

TAFE courses usually cost significantly less than university degrees. And with high HELP debts on the rise, students are considering whether university is worth it, when they’re graduating with considerable debt.

High HELP debts are on the rise. The average owing HELP (formerly HECs) debt in Australia is $21,557, but debts over $50,000 have increased 30% from 2018’s data, and there are now 9x more debts over $100k than there were 10 years ago.

If you’re a government-subsidised student, TAFE courses may cost you anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars a few thousand, though it varies by course.

After the 2018 introduction of Free TAFE in Victoria, you may not even have to pay for your course at all if you meet the criteria of age, location, citizenship and education history. Eligible courses in skill shortage areas are fully subsidised by the government – meaning you pay nothing and have no HELP debt when you graduate.

Eligible courses fall into the following areas:

  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Agriculture
  • Building & Construction
  • Automotive
  • Aged Care & Disability Care Support
  • Hairdressing
  • Signage & Graphics
  • Food
  • Services

So, what’s the best choice? It depends what you want out of your study.

If you’re interested in learning for its own sake, and working with knowledge in a more abstract sense; or you have a particular interest in a field that requires a degree, a bachelor degree could be the first step on a fulfilling journey and an engaging career.

Some people aren’t suited to the classroom, however, and do much better learning practical skills on the job. If that sounds like you, consider VET qualifications as your pathway to a great income and employability.

You can even use them as an entry pathway to a course later on if you want to dive deeper into the theory. You’ll come out with work-ready skills and good earning potential straight away, and your job prospects will be solid, especially if you choose an in-demand field.

Wondering if uni is really for you? VET and TAFE are fantastic options and better suited to many people.

3 Australian training providers that connect academics to ambition

Since the expectations of today’s workforce have altered, career makeovers and new-collar jobs have become two major topics.

In their Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) clarifies that by 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have presented us with advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Therefore, it has become a pressing requirement for students to upgrade their skills and to future proof their careers with courses that understand and integrate the importance of today’s rapid technological change.

Outlined by Forbes, “New collar jobs span multiple disciplines and you don’t require a college or university degree. To qualify for them, you need vocational training in relevant technical and soft skills.”

A growing category, classic new-collar jobs include cloud computing technicians, cybersecurity analysts, user interface designers, and other IT-based roles.

Regardless of your current career stage, switching over to a new-collar job is possible. By undertaking a career makeover with vocational and niche training courses that equip you with desirable soft skills, you’ll be adding another dimension to your CV by appealing to both emerging and traditional job roles.


Source: Deakin College

“Employers like self-directed learners who update their skills and refresh themselves. You must be agile and resilient to successfully navigate your way in the workplace of today. The good news is that continuous learning will place you leaps and bounds ahead of other professionals when it’s time for a career makeover, “ Forbes notes.

Connecting fresh academics to inner ambition is an equation for career success. Yet, you must ensure that the training provider you opt for has an open-minded outlook on the future of workplaces and caters for 21st-century career changers.

That’s why flexible programmes are becoming more popular as students want to learn at their own pace or further their studies while working.

Driven to keep up with the digital transition, students that opt for additional vocational courses speed ahead of those that are staying put in the third industrial revolution instead of evolving alongside the fourth.

Here are 3 Australian training providers that connect academics to ambitions…


An integral partner of the global higher education pioneer, Navitas Group, Deakin College is known as a melting pot of cultures, attracting students from all over the world and preparing learners for a globalised workspace.

Deakin-College-2  Deakin-College-1

Source: Deakin College

It doesn’t matter if you doubt your education or job history, because this College provides a direct pathway to future success through its three diverse campus locations and supports a successful transition to further studies at Deakin University.

In Australia, you can choose to study from three different campuses in the state of Victoria; Melbourne Burwood CampusGeelong Waurn Ponds Campus and Geelong Waterfront Campus.

By connecting programmes and diplomas to your professional aspirations, you can study a variety of disciplines such as foundation studiesbusinesscommercecommunicationconstruction managementdesignengineeringfilm, tv & animationhealth sciencesinformation technology and a Masters Qualifying Program (MQP), which leads to postgraduate studies at Deakin University.

Delivering innovative teaching and learning, positive student experience and engagement with digital learning technologies, Deakin College acknowledges the industry demands and pressures students face, that’s why the Student Learning Advisors are always available to support students in areas such as understanding their assignments, research skills and valuable study skills such as time management, referencing and how to avoid plagiarism.

With a reputation for being unique and visionary, consistently forging new paths both locally and globally, Deakin College is a smart study destination that enables you to achieve your career ambitions and encourages you to kickstart your future.

To find out more or apply to study at Deakin College click here.


Preparing students for the future with the development of soft skills and real-world experience, TAFE NSW is Australia’s largest training and education provider.

Deakin-College-2  Deakin-College-1  International-campus3-181026

Source: TAFE NSW

Standing for Technical and Further Education (TAFE), this education provider has campuses all across New South Wales, meaning international students can choose to study at over 50 locations!

By providing high quality, personalised vocational education and training to build prosperity, sustainability and innovation throughout New South Wales and beyond, more than 500,000 students enrol in TAFE NSW courses and training each year.

With over 230 courses available to international students and flexible English language courses commencing every Monday, 50 weeks of the year, TAFE NSW has always been a trusted choice, connecting you to teachers who excel in their profession and bring their expertise to the classroom.

Passionate about helping you build skills, to be ambitious and become inspired to achieve a brighter future, this Australian training provider offers you widely-recognised qualificationsthat meet national standards and is based on the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF).

For international student, Ron Rocio from the Philippines, TAFE NSW allowed him to grow as both a person and a professional.

“I gained a practical and efficient education and I’m very excited to show the world what a TAFE NSW graduate can really do!  So, if you want to learn practical I-need-these-skills-to-actually-become-employable skills, go for TAFE NSW!” Ron explains.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s your time to be trained by industry experts, to be job-ready and feel connected to a diverse community with TAFE NSW.

TAFE NSW: Registered Training Organisation 90003, CRICOS Provider Number 00591E, Higher Education Provider PRV12049.


With the slogan, “Learn it. Work it”, TAFE SA in Adelaide takes a direct approach to work-integrated learning and vocational training.

Deakin-College-2  Deakin-College-1  International-campus3-181026  TAFE-SA

Source: TAFE SA

Believing that international students from more than 70 countries choose to study at TAFE SA for their quality of education and the enviable South Australian lifestyle, this training provider has both a location appeal and a learning appeal on their side.

Built in the heart of Adelaide, their English Language Centre (ELC) offers affordable, intensive English language programmes tailored to international students. Taking your employability skills to the next level; TAFE SA intensive English language courses will develop your English skills for future employment.

Understanding what’s required from employees during the fourth industrial revolution, TAFE SA places innovation at the forefront of their ambitions. Boasting a growing list of industry partners, the training provider is constantly updating their courses, facilities and methods of delivery to suit the latest career trends.

To meet industry demands, TAFE SA even has a new Simulated Business Community that operates like a real business with products and brands developed, marketed and traded, but in a no-risk virtual economy where students in business administration, finance, marketing and procurement can gain critical workplace skills in a practical environment regardless of their location.

Pushing student industry insights five steps further, TAFE SA is thinking ahead.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International.



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
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
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


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

“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.