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New budget neglects vocational edu options, says union

“The piecemeal increase in the budget in per student contact hour funding does not address the funding shortfall..."

The Victorian government’s 2021-22 State Budget has failed to address the need for significant investment in TAFE, putting at risk the opportunities for Victorians affected by COVID-19 and the state’s ongoing economic recovery, according to AEU Victoria. 

The teacher union highlighted the critical role TAFE plays in Victoria, training the workers we need to deliver the services and infrastructure our community relies on.

“It was extremely disappointing to see no reference in the Budget to one of the key areas of recommendations in the recent Macklin report on Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy – the need for funding reform,” said AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace.

Victoria cannot claim to be the education state unless there is proper investment in vocational education, with TAFE at its centre.

“The state government said they would ‘save TAFE’, but you can’t ‘save TAFE’ when institutes are not funded to cover the cost of delivering courses as found by the government’s own review.

“The piecemeal increase in the budget in per student contact hour funding does not address the funding shortfall. Our TAFEs remain the lowest funded in the nation.

“TAFE teachers have been raising concerns about the lack of funding for vocational education and training for years. Their concerns have been echoed by business, academics, education experts and by Jenny Macklin in her recent review,” Ms Peace said.

“Free TAFE has been an important investment, but it will only work if it is underpinned by funding that actually covers the costs of running the courses. If the Victorian Government doesn’t lift their investment in TAFE, institutes will continue to struggle to run the courses needed, free or otherwise and will continue to struggle financially.”

A significant number of TAFEs in the most recent annual reports were in deficit. Put simply, the government cannot continue to leave our TAFE system in this situation.

“Action must be taken by the Andrews Government to address this funding gap if TAFEs are going to continue to be the centre of Victoria’s vocational education system,” Ms Peace said.

The AEU Victorian Branch is calling for implementation of key recommendations of the Macklin Review.

“The recently announced Victorian Skills Authority is an important step in the right direction, but that alone will not provide the ongoing support TAFE needs now.
TAFEs are at the centre of the vocational education system and the government must develop a fair and transparent funding model that actually covers the cost of providing the education and training. Victorians have a right to properly funded TAFE courses to get the skills and knowledge they need to gain secure and decent jobs.

“TAFEs in Victoria are struggling financially. That is the reality, as borne out by the recent letters of comfort issued to several institutions by the Andrews Labor Government last month.

“Without proper investment in TAFE, the State Government will fail to provide the education and training needed to ensure we have a highly-skilled and sustainable workforce to deliver the services and infrastructure we all rely on.”

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