Bega TAFE forum to discuss Smart and Skilled impacts

A FORUM discussing the impact of the Smart and Skilled policy on local TAFE campuses will be held on July 22 at Club Bega.

Speakers will be Greens MLC John Kaye, ALP candidate for Bega Leanne Atkinson and federal TAFE secretary of the Australian Education Union Pat Forward.

Rob Long from the NSW Teachers Federation said Member for Bega Andrew Constance had been invited to speak, but had declined.

Organisers are hopeful Mr Constance will revise his itinerary so he can attend or send a representative.

“There are many questions to ask Mr Constance of how his first State Budget and cuts to TAFE will impact on students, teachers and the local community,” Mr Long said.

The Smart and Skilled policy will start on January 1, 2015, and the forum will discuss the impact of privatisation of funding, introduction of student fees and increasing debt.

Mr Long said Illawarra TAFE management is currently reviewing the delivery of all courses.

“This may lead to courses cut, delivery condensed in hours and geographic areas, and loss of teaching jobs,” he said.

“Similar privatisation of TAFE funding has occurred interstate where, in some jurisdictions such as Victoria, TAFE has been decimated by the onslaught of so-called competitive tendering and cutbacks.

“The forum is part of a state-wide campaign for a wider debate to include teachers, students, industry, the trade union movement, political parties and the broader community,” Mr Long said.

David Grainger, Bega TAFE’s Teachers Association representative, said “the essence of the night is to make available to the community information about how TAFE will exist under the proposed new funding system, which is a voucher-based entitlement system”.

“Core funding for TAFE will no longer exist, or will be minimal,” MR Grainger said.

“Once individuals use their coupon, they will need to pay to receive an education/training,

“My prediction is that although the buildings will be here for hire, the essence of TAFE, the skills base of teachers, will be rapidly dismantled.

“Large-scale redundancies have already been offered in other institutes, and Illawarra can only follow that trend.”

Mr Grainger said trade courses have already had delivery days slashed to almost half – for example welding trades from 36 days per year for three years, down to 19 days per year.

“Under Smart and Skilled, real choice for a variety of courses and affordable, quality vocational training is about to disappear,” he said.

“From next year, the funding that has provided the TAFE training everyone is familiar with goes, TAFE will lose 70-80 per cent of funding and face the pot luck of accessing contestable funds.

“If successful in securing contestable funds, courses will only run if achieving high class sizes to make delivery economically feasible. 

“Large classes in high population areas are possible, but once again the citizens of lower populated rural areas will miss out.

“Obviously private providers who don’t carry the overhead costs of TAFE are most likely to win tenders for contestable funds.”

Mr Grainger said about 800 full-time teaching positions had been axed across NSW, as well as considerable numbers of skilled part-time and casual positions.

“Places like Bega rely on these trainers be able to deliver the wide range of course necessary to meet student needs.

“Bega Campus has only six full-time teaching staff, with over 30 casual positions, the majority working in industry as well as providing quality training over many years. 

“This experience will disappear overnight.” 

* The public forum on Smart and Skilled will be held on July 22 at Club Bega, 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

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