The Greens, TAFE and the future of the Public VET system

Before I even start talking about this, please note this is not a political discussion, it is a discussion about the Public VET system and the Greens position on it.

So as some of you are aware the Greens have released a position paper on TAFE and the public VET system 

Essentially it seems to be their position that the competitive VET market place has ruined TAFE, failed miserably and not met the needs of the country, so in order to rectify this they needs to give TAFE $1.2 Billion.

First off (and for any of you who read this regularly yes I am on my soap box again)  as with so many discussions of the VET system in this country the people who have written this paper show an utter lack of understanding of the landscape, by simply focusing on the TAFE vs Private provider.  Yet again the Enterprise RTO segment of the market is not even considered, mentioned or acknowledged.  The ERTO space is not about making a profit through the provision of training, it is about providing the best possible training to its staff, and, and I have said this many times before, if the public VET system worked and provided industry and organisations with the level of training and quality that they required then there would be no reason for enterprises to go through the costly exercise of becoming and maintaining their own RTO status.  They also as I have discussed elsewhere lumped all of the so called ‘private’ providers into one bag, which again simply shows their lack of understanding of the system and the players who make it up.  However  as I have said before time and time again, at least in my experience TAFE has failed to provide the level of service and outcomes that organisations need and this failure has little to do with funding levels or having to compete and far more to do with inflexible systems, generic programs and overly convoluted management practices.  So if you are going to have a discussion about VET and if you are going to have a position on it, please at least be aware of all the players and stakeholders.  (Ok I am off my soap box now)

So what about the position paper; firstly let me be clear about this, I support public education, to my mind education should be free that has always been my position, whether that is primary, tertiary or vocational, people’s social and economic status should not prohibit their ability to get a quality education.  I also support the TAFE system, in principle; we need to have a public provider of quality education, we need it for a range of reasons, but and here is the but, it has to deliver the outcomes that industry needs and it is not doing that and I fail to see how throwing more than a billion dollars at a broken system is going to change that.

Rather than just throwing money at TAFE, fix what is wrong, make them more competitive, responsive, innovative, less bureaucratic and top-heavy, more about the outcomes that industry, individuals and the country needs.  If the VET system is failing it is not failing simply because they don’t have enough money, it is failing because there are systematic flaws in the bureaucracy that surrounds the entire area, which makes it much less agile and responsive to need than it should be.

If a non-TAFE provider can deliver a program, which gets better outcomes and suits the needs of business and individuals better than the one delivered by TAFE, why should people to forced to undertake the TAFE program and get a lesser outcome.

My question is why shouldn’t TAFE compete with everyone else who provides training, those TAFE’s which have embraced this competitive funding model, and who are responsive and innovative and who provide industry with the outcomes that they need are successful, it is ones who not willing to do this, who are stuck in their old models who are failing.

TAFE needs to be supported, but it needs to be supported in a way that makes sense, that provides for the future industry needs of the country.  Just locking away funding and throwing it a TAFE is not sensible way forward.

About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

One Response to The Greens, TAFE and the future of the Public VET system

  1. Amy Boleszny says:

    I so agree with you on this. I spent many years in TAFE totally frustrated because the bureaucracy did not allow us to be flexible enough to really meet the needs of industry. It was only with the ATS, that was fully federally funded, that allowed, more or less, to go directly to industry rather than spend two or three years grinding through the mechanism to get a program up and running. There are some memorable examples where the system got in the way.
    A manufacturer in the Barossa needed to train a substantial number of workers in aluminium fabrication and welding. We were prevented from doing this because the National Metals training package (not to appear for another five or six years) was considered ‘imminent’. The result was that the employer had to import workers from overseas. This was a blow to a local economy needing to diversify from primary industry and winemaking.
    The second case was of a cooperage firm, again in the Barossa, whose apprentices were forced to do a cabinet making qualification because we were not able to develop a one year traineeship. While this led to a lot of jokes about wine barrels with Queen Anne legs, it again led to a loss of potential jobs for local youths as the employer just imported coopers from overseas.
    This is a story repeated time and time again, where the TAFE personnel are will and eager to engage with industry but are hogtied by the rules and in a Training Package straitjacket. They are unable to provide effective recognition pathways because that would mean reduced funding. Some TAFEs only allow this for 3 units and charges full tote odds for qualifications even where a substantial RPL or CT applies.
    Now, with the move by many TAFEs away from trade and lower level qualifications, driven by their need to offer high AQF levels attractive to overseas students in the main, we see whole departments closed down even if they are highly profitable. Metro South closed down Asset Maintenance (i.e. cleaning) and put off the staff who promptly set up their own training company and auspiced under an interstate TAFE, which was quite happy to share in the 3 million dollar profit these programs made.
    To me, now being a private RTO, I love the freedom and flexibility to do whatever the local demand is. Need a skills top up? Fine: Do you want that as a PD program, coming right up, would you like an SoA with that?

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