A FORUM to discuss the impact of the Smart and Skilled policy on local TAFE campuses will be held Tuesday night at Club Bega.
“The idea is the Smart and Skilled changes will basically increase costs for delivering vocational education, which will mean limiting access to many people,” Bega TAFE’s Teachers Association representative David Grainger said.
“We are looking at a significant reduction in services, which are already compromised, that will be available for local campuses.
“Basically, it has destroyed vocational education.”
Speakers at the forum will include federal and state political representatives including ALP candidate for Bega Leanne Atkinson, Greens MLC John Kaye, NSW Teachers Federation member Rob Long, and federal TAFE secretary of the Australian Education Union Pat Forward.
Mr Grainger said he hoped Member for Bega Andrew Constance would attend, however Mr Constance said he has long-standing Cabinet commitments that prevent him from attending.
However, he said NSW Fair Trading Minister and Member of the Legislative Council Matthew Mason-Cox will be representing the State Government.
The different parties will give their views on the issue, and attendees will be able to have their voices heard on the matter.
“There will hopefully be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions to the politicians, about what the changing face of vocational education will be,” Mr Grainger said.
Mr Grainger said under Smart and Skilled, there are not enough people in the area to pay the drastically increased rates in order to study at TAFE.
“In my area - which is foundational skills such as reading, writing and computer skills - which have all traditionally been fee free, will now attract a charge,” he said.
“This will mean excluding at-risk people even further.”
Under the changes, apprentices will have to pay for their training and Mr Grainger said many apprentices have made it clear to him they will be unable to afford the new fees.
He said this will mean many do not go on to completing an apprenticeship, and so there will be fewer apprentices in the Bega Valley.
“It is certainly a backwards step in providing equal education for all,” Mr Grainger said.
He said the aim of the forum is to help politicians realise the impact Smart and Skilled will have.
“Hopefully the people in power will see this is not an appropriate path,” he said.
Mr Grainger said those who attend the forum should be past students, parents of students who are looking to provide an education through TAFE, and anyone in the community who is looking for the opportunity to build their skill set in the future.
“I hope as many as possible turn up to ask questions,” he said.
Mr Constance said the Smart and Skilled reforms had not been given a chance yet and the campaign being run by the NSW Labor opposition was “unhelpful”.
“TAFE needs to be talked up, not talked down like the Labor opposition is doing,” he said.
“TAFE is the number one provider of vocational education in our region by a very, very long way.
“We need TAFE to be strong as it is a key driver of job opportunities in the area.
“We are not going to run recreation courses at TAFE – we will align courses with the industry needs of the region,” Mr Constance said.
“If the local TAFE and the unions have concerns over certain courses I’d like to hear from them.”
The forum will be held at Club Bega tonight at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.
The Stop TAFE cuts campaign will also hold community forums in Moruya on Wednesday and Cooma on Thursday.