TAFE cuts agony exposed

DESPITE being hamstrung by brutal State Budget cutbacks, Advance TAFE assures it will continue to do its best by Gippsland.

The axing of $290 million in statewide funding from TAFE will leave Advance TAFE, which has main campuses in Sale and Bairnsdale, $5 million short annually.

The loss of funding has resulted in a restructure of the organisation, with chief executive officer Peter Heilbuth announcing last week just what the extent of the funding cuts were.

Thirty-two staff will lose their jobs and 36 courses will be cut.

Outreach centres in Heyfield and Yarram will close this week.

“It’s really challenging at the moment,” Mr Heilbuth told the Gippsland Times on Friday.

“Staff have been incredibly, enormously professional and calm, but there is a lot of bad news at the moment for some of our staff.”

Mr Heilbuth said the funding cuts would also, as of next year, remove the funding for the centre’s access to disability support, student counselling and careers advice.

“In regional communities like ours, many of our students are in need of those kinds of services; whether they have a disability, whether they are returning to study after a long period, or whether they have been retrenched and are looking to move into another area of employment,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“The real challenge before us now is how we continue to support those students in our region with those needs.

“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,” he said.

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

One of the ways in which Advance TAFE will have to readjust its student support will be to establish a dedicated hotline for people studying in areas such as Heyfield and Yarram, Mr Heilbuth said.

“The administration will move back to the main campuses,” he said.

“We will also be trying to engage with schools about using some of their facilities for the running of classes, or for video-conferencing.”

One of the smaller Sale facilities at 2 Desailly St will close, with staff and classes relocated to other Sale facilities.

Café Rossi, the training restaurant in Raymond St, Sale, will be offered for sale as a trading concern. Campuses at Bairnsdale, Fulham, Forestec, Farmtec, Seamec and the Flexible Learning Centre in Sale remain unaffected by the changes.

Students enrolled in courses which will be closed will be allowed to finish, however Mr Heilbuth said provisions for part-time study might not be feasible.

“There might be some people who have planned to finish off their courses part-time . . . for those people, we are going to be saying to them, we will continue the course but… you need to either speed up your enrolment or you need to consider your options,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we just cannot afford to keep the course running for say, the next five years.”

The 36 courses to be cut 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.

The full list is available online at advancetafe.edu.au

Mr Heilbuth explained the decision on which courses to be cut was a drawn-out process, with factors such as employment opportunities, student numbers and potential to consolidate or restructure courses considered.

Among the 176 courses that will continue to operate at Advance TAFE include automotive, construction, engineering, hairdressing and graphic design.

“The message I absolutely want to get out it is please don’t think that Advance TAFE is closing its doors,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“We are absolutely still open for business and if you are at all not sure, please come and talk to us to find out what we’re offering.”