This article was first published in The Mercury 8/09/2022.
Tuesday 6th September was National TAFE Day.
A day where we stop and think about all the good work that TAFEs do.
My mum went to TAFE. I went to TAFE. My son went to TAFE.
TAFE was a godsend for someone like me. Someone who might not have been the best at school, but likes to get stuck in and do things, practical things.
Back in the day, TAFE was where things were at. But we’ve let things go over the years, and now TAFE is a far cry from where it was.
It’s time to give TAFE a facelift and bring it into the twenty-first century.
The Government made some announcements recently. 180,000 new free TAFE places.
$3.7 billion funding over five years to reform the VET sector.
That one is a bit funny given that Labor and the Coalition teamed up three years ago and ripped $4 billion out of the Future Education Fund.
These announcements are well and good. But we need to overhaul how TAFE works to make sure it's effectively plugging the gap of our skills shortage.
We need to look at the course structure. Some of the courses are outdated. Or they take far too long and have unnecessary red tape.
We need to think about TAFE’s relationship with industry, and how to add value with the private sector.
Don’t get me started on the need to invest far more money into our TAFE schools. They’re not fit for purpose. Every year that the schools are left without money, it's going to cost more money to get them up to scratch.
We’ve got schools with rust on the floor and asbestos in the ceiling. Equipment dating back to the Cold War. One Tassie TAFE even has a bit of a rabbit plague going on! We can’t provide proper equipment and classrooms to learn in. And that’s if you can learn at all.
A teacher shortage is causing courses to be cancelled left, right and centre. Twenty electrical apprentices on Tassie’s North-West Coast have had their training blocks cut because there isn’t anyone to teach it. The course won’t start again until next year now.
Funding is good, but you can't just throw money at something and hope it fixes all the problems. And credit where credit’s due - the Minister has identified some of these problems already.
But I’m sick of standing up in the Senate like a broken record banging on about this. We know these problems exist and they’re not being prioritised.
TAFE needs a facelift and it needs it now.