High cost of learning a trade
By JENI FAULKNER
BRAD Plummer has the perfect name for his dream job but, unfortunately, it comes at a cost.
Third-year apprentice Brad, 20, is questioning the cost of education today after discovering an advanced component of his TAFE plumbing apprenticeship would cost almost $2000.
Brad is considering taking out a loan to pay for his education but this decision is better than the alternative ? forgetting his dream to own a plumbing business one day.
In 2003, the annual cost of the advanced component of his course ? Waste Disposal Services II ? was $260.
This year the North Coast Institute of TAFE is charging a 'commercial rate' of $1990 for the full year, or $995 per semester.
Brad attends TAFE two days every three weeks. His normal wage is $404 a week, but that drops to $242.80 in the weeks he is required to study.
He currently pays $190 a week in rent, as well as meeting other living expenses such as running a car and paying for clothing and food.
His expenses are considerably higher than his fellow students because he was forced to move away from home as he could not find an apprenticeship in Taree.
By comparison, Tamworth TAFE charges just $766 a year for Waste Disposal Services II.
Additionally, apprentices in Sydney have the opportunity to undertake their advanced courses during the evening, and don't have to forego income.
The director of the North Coast Institute, Neil Black, said the most important factor to consider was that an apprentice has to pay no more than $358 a yearstatewide to attend TAFE.
"When an apprentice finishes a trade some decide they want to study further and become licensed, this is when they have to pay more money," Mr Black said.
"We have to give priority funding to apprenticeship courses first and because of the increase and demand this costs money.
"Those who do this Certificate IV course are usually fourth-year apprentices and experienced trades people who are earning more money," he said.
Mr Black said the trend today was that people wanted more training and additional skills.
"Taxpayers can't be expected to meet the cost of education and training," he said.
"Universities have HECS fees, a loan in which the individual pays. That is the benefit from education because they are the one with the degree.
"We had clear decisions to make and instead of not running subjects we are giving people the opportunity to do the modules they want.
"If they want to select higher courses we ask them to pay for it. After all, they are the ones who will benefit in the long run."