Advance TAFE announces 10 more jobs to go, but no further course cuts

NO further courses will be dropped for 2013 in the business transition plan Advance TAFE has submitted to the State Government-appointed review panel for its operations next year.

The institute is planning a reduction of a further 10 jobs from predominantly non-teaching areas – far fewer than the 32 jobs it was forced to cut in June.

Advance TAFE chief executive Peter Heilbuth said the institute was providing the community and staff with full disclosure of its planning for the coming year, so it could can get on with providing relevant, high-quality training for those who wanted to improve their skills and job prospects.

Mr Heilbuth said staff at the institute had been asked for ideas in the preparation of the transition plan required by the State Government to meet its new funding guidelines.

“We continue to work hard to minimise the impact of the funding changes on our ability to offer high quality vocational and further education in our community,” he said.

“Our first priority remains to continue to provide our community with a broad range of quality vocational and higher education education options that can be studied locally.

“I am aware of media reports circulating today about Advance TAFE, GippsTAFE and Chisholm potentially becoming one organisation. Advance TAFE’s board has clearly articulated, through our business transition plan, our commitment and intent to remain a strong, independent, regionally-based, locally governed, public tertiary organisation, for the continued benefit of our region.”

Advance TAFE will continue to offer around 200 courses in 2013 across agribusiness, animal studies, natural resources management, business, IT, tourism, cookery, nursing, health and community services, education support, children’s services, maritime, forestry, graphic design, photoimaging, engineering, civil construction, aeroskills, automotive, building, engineering and many more. It also continues to offer higher education university degree options in Sale and Bairnsdale.

Mr Heilbuth said that many of its courses now included online modules and connectivity with videoconferencing, to offer even wider flexibility to suit students at various life stages.

The review panel now meets to consider all Victorian TAFEs’ transition plans before making its report to government by the end of the year. It is expected cabinet may announce its decisions on recommendations early in 2013.

Mr Heilbuth said the institute and board had been grateful for the many messages of support from business and the local community and urged the community to continue supporting their local TAFE.

“The best way to show community support now, is for people and businesses to look closely at their own skill needs and come and talk to our friendly team about how we can help them immediately, and into 2013,” Mr Heilbuth said.

In another key decision, the conservation and land management courses will be co-located at the institute’s Lakes Entrance Seamec facility on Bullock Island with the marine and coastal studies courses.

Mr Heilbuth said this would allow better utilisation of existing facilities and would enable the Forestec centre to be more widely available within the community. This modern centre in a bushland setting includes a gallery, reception area, kitchen/café area, auditorium, classrooms and meeting rooms.

“We are not closing Forestec. We are not cutting any Forestec courses,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“Forestec will remain an integral campus for Advance TAFE’s, and the region’s future.

“What we are doing is enabling the opening up of this incredible facility more broadly to the community.

“We have a range of community organisations that make very good use of these facilities currently and we hope this will enable us to do more of this.”

The existing Forestec onsite “incubator” units, which are used by former students who are launching businesses, will continue for the foreseeable future. Forestry and maritime fire safety training, which are conducted in separate buildings and areas on the Forestec site, will continue on site.

Mr Heilbuth announced the changes to staff simultaneously via a teleconference link across campuses in Bairnsdale, Sale and Lakes Entrance and with some staff dialling in remotely at lunch time today.

“Just as it was earlier this year, it is very sad to no longer have jobs for a few staff who have been assets to the institute and to our region. These decisions are extremely difficult and follow the development of a detailed 2013 budget,” he said.

The substantial funding cuts to Advance TAFE represent significantly reduced subsidies for most courses and the complete removal of funding that was previously allocated to student support services such as disability, library and counselling support from January 1 – called ‘Full Service Provider’ funding.

Mr Heilbuth said, through its business transition plan lodged with the government on September 7, the institute and its board had strongly argued for the continued funding of these full service provider services, on behalf of the community.

“The continued provision of student services such as disability support is crucial in any publicly-owned training provider. We simply must remain inclusive and representative of our wider community, and we are seeking the government’s continued support for these services, through our business transition plan.”