REFORMS to TAFE funding will help Advance TAFE to provide high quality training opportunities, according to state minister Peter Hall.
The Higher Education and Skills Minister visited Advance TAFE in Bairnsdale last Friday to outline the State Government’s funding plans for TAFE vocational training.
The visit followed an announcement by Premier Denis Napthine and Mr Hall in response to recommendations from an expert independent TAFE Reform Panel.
TAFE institutes such as Advance TAFE must compete with private sector providers, which do not have the overhead costs of student facilities and services such as libraries, for vocational training students.
To assist TAFEs compete with private sector providers, the government will make available an additional $200 million to TAFEs over four years, including $100 million in infrastructure funding.
The $200 million will be allocated among TAFEs after proposals submitted by the TAFE institutes are assessed, and will be allocated to support innovation, collaboration, structural reform and business transformation.
Mr Hall said regional TAFEs played a critical role in community and economic development across Victoria.
“Already Advance TAFE is doing an outstanding job in creating high quality training opportunities for students, and these reforms are designed to build on and further strengthen this good work,” he said.
“Last year there were more than 35,000 vocational training students in the Gippsland region, with TAFEs accounting for 60 per cent of enrolments.
“We will support Advance TAFE to build on its existing strengths, appoint expert advisers and an independent facilitator to help shape its business, so it can continue to benefit the local community well into the future.”
However Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Skills and Apprenticeships Steve Herbert said Victorians should be concerned the announcement by the government would essentially force mergers of TAFEs.
“It is now clear that whilst publicly the government did not accept the TAFE Reform Panel’s recommendation for regional mergers, privately they have an agenda to force regional TAFEs to merge,” Mr Herbert said.
“We asked (Mr) Hall questions about the intention of the government’s recent TAFE announcement and on each occasion, the minister failed to rule out mergers of GippsTAFE and Advance TAFE, which collectively lost $15 million due to the TAFE cuts, and other regional TAFEs.
“Today, Premier Napthine refused to answer a similar question.
“Last week’s announcement has now set up the framework to frog-march smaller regional TAFEs to amalgamate and today’s refusal to rule these mergers out will send a shiver down the spine of communities in the Gippsland region,” Mr Herbert said.
“It’s clear that the $50 million a year that the Napthine Government is dangling in front of regional TAFEs is not about saving TAFEs it is about merging them.”