By Lucy McNally Posted 20 Jun 2015, 8:26pm New figures from the NSW Education Department show job cuts at TAFE are more than double what the State Government initially flagged.

The department's annual report shows TAFE has 2,000 fewer teachers and support staff now than it did in 2011.

In 2012, then-premier Barry O'Farrell announced $1.7 billion in cuts to education resulting in 800 job losses for TAFE.

But the Opposition's education spokesman, David Harris, said the 2,000 job losses had led to bigger class sizes.

"Students are starting to suffer," he said.

"We're seeing problems with enrolment and supporting students in their learning.

"We're seeing hours having to be cut to deliver courses and we're seeing students not being able to have access to equipment."

The department report also showed less than 70 per cent of school leavers aged between 15 and 19 were studying or working.

The Government's target is that it reaches 90 per cent by 2025.

Mr Harris said fewer students were finishing their courses.

"We've now seen massive fee rises where students who enrolled in a course in 2014 that was costing them $1,000 are being told when they're near to finishing the course that it's going to cost them $6,000," he said.

"Clearly that's a shock to them."

Premier Mike Baird said his Government had poured money into the VET system — the loan scheme for TAFE students.

"Overall funding into the VET system has increased since we came to Government, not decreased," he said.

"It's gone up by about 11 per cent overall."

Mr Baird said he stood by his predecessor's decision on TAFE funding cuts.

"What we are about is providing value for taxpayers in terms of delivery of that service but just as importantly more places," he said.

Students say cuts taking a toll

Briar Forrester and Natasha Fowkes study graphic design at Hornsby TAFE.

Ms Forrester said she loved the subject but that funding cuts had taken a big toll.

"The length of the classes is becoming shorter, the course length is becoming shorter, and I just worry that this is going to affect the qualification that I will be walking away with," she said.

"The administration side of things is in a real pickle because it's quite disorganised and that's because they have literally cut 80 per cent of the staff in the admin department at the campus that I study."

Ms Fowkes is hearing impaired. For her the smaller the class, the better.

"The class size being larger is a huge issue for me," she said.

"It's harder for teachers to manage."

Changes to VET might be good for business, but not for students

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane yesterday announced funding to engage young people in education and employment, and reforms of apprenticeship support services. This announcement tells us that the government’s priority when it comes to Vocational Education and Training (VET) is not the young person, but businesses.

VET markets have recently been attracting attention, but for the wrong reasons. “Dodgy” providers, poor regulation and TAFE colleges under considerable financial pressure because of government cuts: these are the outcomes of years of uncoordinated and ill-considered national and state VET policies.

Yesterday’s announcements are focused on employers, mostly small-business owners, and community providers engaging the young through wage subsidies and job training. MacFarlane, who has carriage of VET policy in the Abbott government, is treating VET as a labour market strategy and industry subsidy. The announced investment of A$38 million to deliver a Training for Employment Scholarship programme will help regional employers provide job-specific training to the young and unemployed.

Small to medium-sized businesses that take on an unemployed person aged 18-24 will receive funding to pay for up to 26 weeks of training. This policy could be seen as providing six months of employment on a meagre training wage. Combine this with the mooted reforms to welfare and it may mean six months on the dole. This will not engage young people in employment or education in meaningful or long-term ways.

MacFarlane also announced a Youth Employment Pathways programme to help young people in regional areas to identify and successfully start on the path to their chosen career by returning to school, starting vocational education training or moving into the workforce. Only community organisations will be able to apply for funding to deliver support services and training to people between the ages of 15 and 18 who are not in school.

Initially, 3,000 places will be offered to enable community organisations to develop a training plan to meet individual needs such as job-searching skills and industry-specific job training. The principle of supporting young people to re-engage with school and their own education is important socially.

However, the Commonwealth government does not have responsibility for schools, nor does the industry portfolio have any sustained connection with schools operated by state and territory governments. These policy announcements reveal that the Abbott government is being petulantly selective in its engagement with certain VET policy players and providers.

VET better off in state hands

The Abbott government’s approach to VET policy is piecemeal. What MacFarlane described as a “convoluted mess” when taking on VET policy in the industry portfolio is being made messier by these uncoordinated policies, which will be more miss than hit.

The federal VET policy approach lacks coordination - not just between government departments but in its relations with the states too. This only intensifies the difficulties faced by the VET sector generally.

In bypassing the comprehensive VET networks of state governments, including state industry plans and initiatives, and ignoring state government-owned TAFEs, these policies signal that the Abbott government is unprepared or unwilling to lead nationally coordinated policy in the skills, employment and vocational education and training space.

The training market in Australia is far from uniform across states and territories yet has grown significantly to include a breadth of providers. It has been financed through an income-contingent loan system. VET Fee help enables those seeking skills and employment-related education to access the funds to pay for their tuition, which is repaid upon employment at a certain salary level. This is an example of a coordinated policy approach.

The policies announced by MacFarlane, Training for Employment Scholarships, Youth Employment Pathways and the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, will involve over A$238 million of public funding. This funding will bypass states and territories, which have a track record in coordinating and managing VET provision through complex training markets. These funds will instead go directly to business, community agencies and individuals.

A nationally coordinated approach to VET depends upon funds allocated through these announcements being directed to supporting existing VET approaches that have proven successful.

The funds attached to these policy announcements would be better off being used to work collaboratively with businesses, community organisations and state and territory government agencies. This would ensure a cohesive and cooperative approach to delivering education and skills for employment that works for those who do not, through no fault of their own.

post image

Privilege begets privilege when elites are first in the queue

post image


When my eldest had just turned 14, I used my privilege.

Our family did most of its shopping in the local supermarket - at that stage, I hadn’t hardened in my loathing of the Big Two but I shopped slightly more expensively because it actually took less time.

So, pinging through the checkout with my vast shop, I said to Michael: ''Hey Michael, I notice you employ school-age children in part-time jobs. When my daughter is old enough, would you mind thinking of her as a possible employee?''

That question happened at the exact time I zinged up a couple of hundred bucks. Michael said he’d be happy to consider her. Lo and behold, she got a part-time job which she kept up until she hit year 12. She passed her job on to her little sister who passed her job on to her little brother.

These days, my kids get their own jobs, although if I can give them a hand I will. I would certainly make a phone call on their behalf (although they usually tell me that any call I make would hinder, rather than help).

There is not a parent on this earth who wouldn’t help their kids to make the most of opportunities. Help to get a scholarship? Yes, no worries. Help to get the best possible job they can get? Sure.

News this week about the incredible success of Louise and Frances Abbott has met with fury. Frances was awarded a chairman’s scholarship at the Whitehouse Institute of Design. Louise has a job at the Australian embassy, headed by former Coalition staffer Peter Woolcott, in Geneva, just two years out of university. I’m sure Frances and Louise are terrific women but Louise only finished her degree a couple of years ago and I don’t think anyone else in her cohort appears to have an international posting yet.

So, what’s the problem? People seem to think that the Prime Minister helped his daughters get that privileged access.

And my answer is: ''Don’t be so ridiculous.'' He didn’t need to help.

The Abbott daughters have what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called social capital. These days, we are more likely to call it privilege – but it's the social connectedness of the upper classes and the power elites that make scholarships and postings miraculously appear.

Why are we angry? As executive dean of the faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne University of Technology Michael Gilding told me: ''Our social ideal is about being self-made, about earning through your own efforts and your own merit.''

He’s dead right. That’s one of the reasons we got so mad about Frances and Louise and I have absolutely no doubt that someone, somewhere, is going through Bridget Abbott’s school and employment record right now.

Think that's tough on the daughters? I hate the way they’ve been exposed and I can’t imagine how Mrs Abbott feels about it. But in Australia, this is the price you pay for flaunting your privilege in the face of a generation of aspiring public servants, in the face of the young men and women who could never afford to go to an elite private fashion college. Yes, of course the Abbott daughters are adults and must make their own decisions but they - and those around them - need to be mindful of the enormous gifts their father's status gives them. Politicians should be as transparent as glass and less fragile.

How shocking that Mr Abbott’s minders did not blink at what can only seem like the perks of public life - but that’s probably because in the circles in which they move, privilege is what they live and breathe. It doesn’t worry them because it’s part of their everyday experience. A good job. A good school. There is no need for winks and nods because this smooth traverse is what happens for the elites.

Inherited privilege is endemic in Australia. We have a higher proportion of private schools than other developed counties - and parents see that as a way to leverage privilege and power, to replicate their own lives and improve their children’s position. We say we want self-made but we send our children to private schools to optimise their opportunities in life.*

''We have a lot of double thinking around this,'' says Gilding. ''There’s a fair degree of social hypocrisy around privilege.''

It will of course get worse for young people whose families don’t have the connections. Education was one of the silver bullets for Australians - and it had the capacity to make change in families in a way which transformed lives. That will be gone now. How nauseating were those managers from the sandstone universities who agreed to swig at the trough of the wealthy? Now a few are clapping their hands to their foreheads and imagining what it will be like to have debts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars: ''What about the disadvantaged?''

That sympathy, that feigned concern? Too late. Too little, too late.

As Gilding says, the changes to fees will restrict social mobility. All the more spots for the wealthy and connected. They won’t even have to make a call. Employing the children of the rich and powerful is a capital idea.

Read more →

post image
Premier of Victoria | 09 Feb 2015

“Liberal cuts left our TAFE and training system in turmoil.”

post image
BY: MEDIA | During.2015

Small to medium-sized businesses that take on an unemployed person aged 18-24 will receive funding to pay for up to 26 weeks of training.

"We've now seen massive fee rises where students who enrolled in a course in 2014 that was costing them $1,000 are being told when they're near to finishing the course that it's going to cost them $6,000," he said.


Circling the wagons

In the past five years, Australian taxpayers have spent $7.5 million flying the families of politicians around the country, including $1.04 million in the last six months of 2014, straight after Joe Hockey’s swingeing budget cuts and insistence that the nation tighten its belt.

Read more →