Major parties 'forget TAFE'
BOTH major parties have deserted the public provider of vocational education and training in NSW, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye and Greens candidate for Coffs Harbour Rodney Degens.
They said this was despite the public and personal benefits that TAFE offered, especially for a low-income regional community like Coffs Harbour.
This is the fourth State election campaign in which the Greens have sought to highlight problems with TAFE.
“Despite the massive social and economic benefits that TAFE provides, the NSW Government has undermined its future by slashing funding, pushing up fees and charges, casualising and downgrading the profession and increasingly exposing TAFE to competition with private providers,” Dr Kaye said.
He said over the past 10 years across NSW there had been a 27% reduction in funding per student hour as well as a 22% increase in fees and charges, while 71% of the TAFE workforce was now made up of casual staff.
He said for Coffs Harbour students, this meant they were part of bigger classes and received a ‘less rich offering’ educationally.
They had less opportunities to spend time with their teachers outside class and those from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to be able to afford courses.
For TAFE teachers it meant they were working harder; had less opportunity to accumulate knowledge and experience and fewer opportunities to see students outside their teaching hours.
Dr Kaye said while there was a general economic malaise, Coffs Harbour was specially vulnerable to a declining standard of TAFE education because of the high percentage of the local population which did not have a university education and the high number of unemployed people.
“If you want a robust economy, you need a skilled workforce,” Dr Kaye said.
He said the argument advanced for privatisation by the NSW Labor government which had presided over the undermining and downgrading of TAFE was that private providers offered ‘more bang for your buck’ but the Greens were arguing this was quantity at the cost of quality and turning technical and vocational training into a low-cost industry was not a good outcome.
He said the economy received a $6.40 return for every $1 spent on TAFE.
Rodney Degens, who is also a Coffs Harbour City councillor, said 24% of 20-24 year olds in the Coffs Harbour local government area did not complete year 12.
“Coffs Harbour also has a higher proportion of residents with TAFE qualifications than both the regional and state average,’ Cr Degens said.
ALP candidate for Coffs Harbour David Quinn said he totally rejected the Greens claims.
He said recent years had seen an increase in TAFE funding, especially in Coffs Harbour, as well as seeing TAFE courses move into schools, allowing students to begin their apprenticeships earlier.