National TAFE Day: COVID economy needs TAFE investment

AEU SA Branch media release: Thursday 13 August 2020

National TAFE Day celebrates the achievements of the public TAFE system, reminding politicians that only TAFE has the infrastructure, the workforce and the trusted reputation to provide high quality VET qualifications across the country. 

Despite the policy failures and recent funding cuts, a report released today by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, 'An Investment in Productivity and Inclusion: The Economic and Social Benefits of the TAFE System', reveals that TAFE contributes an estimated $92.5 billion annually to the Australian economy.

AEU SA President Ms Lara Golding said today, “Clearly, TAFE plays a critical role in our economy. The South Australian community values and trusts TAFE. Its lecturers are qualified experts in their fields, providing a relevant and high quality education for a wide range of students, though budget cuts make this harder than ever."

However, there are many providers of vocational education who take public money for private profit, with little regard to student outcomes.

“Competition for diminishing public funds skews the focus away from quality education to reducing costs. Ultimately it’s students who miss out and the first to feel the effects are those disadvantaged by distance and low socioeconomic status,” stated Ms Golding.

The Halsey Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (2018) confirmed that state governments had withdrawn TAFE delivery from non-metropolitan regions expecting that increased choice of providers would materialise in regional areas. Instead private providers retreated to the cities, reduced services or increased costs to compensate for lower demand and other costs associated with operating away from metropolitan areas.

“Now, more than ever, public vocational education is too important to leave to a competitive market. The coming months will be tough on our economy. TAFE can and must be part of re-skilling and re-building our economy. It’s time to re-invest in TAFE.”