$200m for TAFE after state cut $1.2b

IN what appears to be a state government back flip, new Premier Denis Napthine and Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall this week announced plans to provide $200 million worth of funding to the vocational training sector, to be spent over four years.

Eastern Victoria MLC Matt Viney said the announcement came off the back of last year’s decision to slash funding to TAFEs by $1.2 billion.

“Whether it be premier Baillieu, or premier Napthine, the Coalition’s pattern is to give back less than what they cut in the first place and then expect people to grateful,” Mr Viney said.

He described the proposal as “pathetic”, saying the $200 million promised by Dr Napthine only equated to 17 per cent of what was cut from TAFEs last year.

Victorian Greens education spokesperson Sue Pennicuik said the announcement wouldn’t undo the devastation wreaked upon the TAFE sector as part of last year’s cuts.

However Advance TAFE acting chief executive Jane Pointing welcomed the government’s decision which, she said, would give TAFEs greater control of their assets.

She told staff in a simultaneous briefing across its campuses that the proposed funding was not a reversal of funding cuts, it was new money earmarked to support innovation and structural reform.

“The government has made it clear that TAFEs are being asked to work smarter and become commercially viable and financially sustainable,” she said, in view of the government’s plans to make TAFEs more independent.

Ms Ponting said through the government, institutes such as Advance TAFE were working on ways to engage secondary school students and expose them to career possibilities in schools by implementing greater Vocational Education Training programs.

The government’s goal, she said, was to have TAFEs one day compete with privately run registered training organisations.

In light of this, Ms Ponting said Advance TAFE would now be looking at creating innovative pathways to university through its course development, encouraging greater degree options in the region.

The new fund forms part of the government response to the independent TAFE Review Panel report, which made several recommendations to further develop vocational education and training across the state.

The panel spent six months consulting with TAFEs around the state before it delivered its findings.

Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said he welcomed the commitment to the future of Advance TAFE.

He said the State Government wanted to support local TAFEs, with regional and rural institutes receiving an extra five per cent, on top of the standard training subsidy.

“The announcement builds on the successful reforms last year, which has already seen greater participation in courses that address skill shortages,” he said.

He said the funding was designed to assist TAFE institutes to grow their presence within the broader vocational education and training industry.

For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.