TAFE chief puts on brave face

ADVANCE TAFE’s chief executive has expressed “deep regret” about cuts made due to a reduction in State Government funding.

Advance TAFE will cut 32 jobs and close eight of its smaller facilities, some within the next few weeks, as a result of changes to State Government funding of TAFEs.

The institute will also phase out 36 of the 215 currently taught courses because of the funding cuts, estimated to be $5 million.

The full list of courses no longer offered will be available on the Advance TAFE website on Friday. The 36 courses include qualification levels in hospitality, business and business administration, retail, cosmetic services, aquaculture, equine studies, furniture design, tourism, cleaning operations, sports and recreation and visual arts.

Apprenticeships were unaffected by the cuts, and this remains a high quality teaching area for Advance TAFE.

Advance TAFE chief executive Peter Heilbuth announced the changes to staff in internal forums held simultaneously in Bairnsdale and Sale on Thursday. He said the institute had considered all courses and services in order to try to absorb the forced cuts with minimal impact to the community.

“We deeply regret that 14 EFT teaching and 11 EFT support jobs across a range of areas will go. These decisions were extremely difficult and follow a thorough review of the operations across the institute,” he said. “We have not crudely ‘slashed’ every course below a certain funding band, because we know there is significant demand in some of those areas for skills for local jobs.”

All five outreach centres in Yarram, Heyfield, Orbost, Swifts Creek and Mallacoota, which provide some classes and referral services to other TAFE campuses for communities located in remote areas, will close from next week.

G-tec, the dedicated campus for year 11 and 12 students combining an apprenticeship with studies, will close its Bairnsdale campus at the end of December. From 2013, students will study G-tec programs at the main Advance TAFE Bairnsdale campus.

G-tec’s Sale campus is unaffected.

The campus at 2 Desailly St, at the Port of Sale, will be closed from next month with staff relocated to other Sale area facilities. It currently houses service teams, work safety centre and provides external meeting rooms and classrooms for the University of Ballarat students, whose classes will move to one of the other Sale facilities in semester two.

Café Rossi, the training restaurant in Raymond Street, Sale, will continue to trade and be put up for sale as a going concern.

Mr Heilbuth said the staff being made redundant would be supported in many ways, from counselling to and financial planning and employment services.

The extent of the cuts is approximately $5 million, which is predominantly made up of cuts to course subsidies, in some cases to as low as $1.50 per contact hour; removal of “full service provider” funding from January 1, which helps fund student support, disability support and library services; removal of maintenance funding for facilities, and changes to student reimbursement.

Mr Heilbuth expected community disappointment at the campus closures, particularly the outreach ventres.

“We deeply regret that this may leave some communities with fewer options. However, our review showed an overall reduction in students choosing to study through those centres,” he said.

“Despite strong roles in their communities, including referrals into main campus courses, the outreach centres have never been independently viable, and we simply can no longer afford to cross-subsidise them.”

Advance TAFE will continue to support people from those communities to help them find ways to engage with training and education options, including continuing to offer referral advice and to run specific courses in areas where there is sufficient demand.

There will be no new enrolments accepted in the 36 courses which are being phased out over the next six to 12 months. Students currently enrolled in these courses before June 30 will be able to complete their qualifications, but no new students will be taken on for those courses.

“Even though we have to close 36 courses, this represents only a small proportion of the 215 courses we currently teach. Unlike some other TAFEs, we have not entirely cut the hospitality, business and IT courses from our offering,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“We have carefully looked at retaining as many courses as we can that provide a pathway to higher studies, or which have strong job outcomes in this region. We will continue to do our best to offer in-demand courses,” he said.

Mr Heilbuth noted these were the first tranche of changes in order to meet the budget constraints for the remainder of 2012. The government requires TAFEs to provide a transition plan in September, detailing how they will restructure for 2013 and beyond.

He said the State Government had drastically reduced funding for many courses and completely stopped funding areas such as student support from January 1.

“This, however, does not necessarily mean that we, at Advance TAFE, will cut all of our student support services, but we do have to consider what other areas can be trimmed to meet those commitments,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“This is particularly hard when we already run such a lean operation.

“While we appreciate the messages of support and (in many cases) anger from our community over these forced cuts, we are not forgetting that we also need to focus on opportunities for growth. To this end, we are consolidating our areas of strength and seeking new partnerships to develop these even further.”

Mr Heilbuth said said Advance TAFE had strong links to industry groups across Gippsland, and was exploring similar relationships wherever possible in order to boost its income beyond reliance on government funding.

What remains the same at Advance TAFE

AEROSKILLS training continues to be a key area of growth for Advance TAFE, which is already Victoria’s largest provider of general aviation training in Victoria, attracting participants and employers from all over Australia.

GippsAero, one of Australia’s most successful aircraft manufacturers, uses Advance TAFE training extensively, including Aeroskills (mechanical, structural and technical), competitive manufacturing and management studies. They currently have around 50 vacancies for suitably trained personnel.

OneHarvest/Vegco recently appointed Advance TAFE as its national training partner across a range of skills and jobs in their food industry, farming and marketing businesses across Australia.

Seamec, the institute’s maritime facility, is enjoying widespread industry support for the environmental working practices training it has developed with the trawl fishing industry, and now, the shark fishing industry. Its team continues to work closely with commercial maritime bodies to proactively determine their training needs.

Forestec, the environment and forestry facility, is unique in its ability to offer close-range field work for conservation and land management and forestry-associated training. Students and employers comment on the huge benefit of being able to step just outside the classroom to continue practical activities.

Farmtec, the agriculture and horticulture working farm near Sale, continues to offer expanded options, including Diploma of Agriculture (Organics), the only one of its kind, and which attracts farmers from across the state.

Advance TAFE remain’s Racing Victoria’s preferred provider of racing studies training and our reputation continues to attract employees of Australia’s top stables – the winner of one of last week’s racing scholarship awards has Black Caviar as one of his charges.

Advance TAFE has expanded its health care and social sciences training, including a new intake of the Diploma of Nursing offered in Sale, in addition to the courses already offered in Bairnsdale. It is working with Monash University and GippsTAFE to deliver innovative new pathways into health services training and degrees from 2013.