Bega TAFE will suffer under Smart and Skilled reforms says teachers union

SMART and Skilled is decimating TAFE as a skilled training organisation, according to the TAFE Illawarra Institute’s Bega campus union rep David Grainger.

The NSW Government’s announced reforms to vocational education, due to come into play in 2015, will see TAFE competing for funding through a tender process with other private and commercial training organisations.

Mr Grainger said this removal of core funding had already resulted in significant changes to the way in which TAFE approaches training – and the full extent of the move is still unknown.

Meanwhile, NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said the Smart and Skilled reform package will benefit thousands of prospective vocational students, offering them more flexibility.

He also said he is confident TAFE can thrive in a competitive environment.

That doesn’t appear to be the feeling of the TAFE Teachers Association.

“A lot of things are concerning us that are likely to happen next year,” Mr Grainger said this week.

“Welding has already been reduced to 13 days a semester here in Bega and next year will drop again to 19 days a year – down from 36.”

Mr Grainger also highlighted the Bega hospitality faculty, which is renowned for producing top-quality chefs.

“The hospitality course is a strength of this campus and of the economy of this area.

“You just have to look at what Deirdre [Jory, hospitality and tourism head teacher] has achieved and the awards her apprentice chefs have won.

“That only happens when you have quality training and quality trainers.”

Mr Grainger said the Smart and Skilled reforms instead focus more on the workplace as the site for learning.

“But a workplace tends to have a single specialisation.

“You won’t get the generalist training of a TAFE course, or the extent of training offered.

“The breadth and depth can no longer be there if training is cut that much.”

Mr Grainger said currently, 23 per cent of vocational training money is contestable.  

In Victoria and South Australia under similar schemes to Smart and Skilled, between 70 and 80 per cent is contestable.

“And TAFE has to bid for that,” he said.

“You can’t pay salaries on the chance you get a tender.

“Already across NSW 800 jobs have been lost.

“This Institute hasn’t started yet, but we feel it’s certainly to come.”

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