Another state election looms, this time in NSW and both parties are spruiking vocational education investment. The incumbent Liberal government recently announced an $86 million “Reskilling NSW” program with $48 million going towards TAFE scholarships to disadvantaged young people.
Contrary to this, its opposition Labor counterparts have promised $100 million investment towards making TAFE more affordable by reducing fees.
It is clear that both parties are heeding the recent lessons learned in the Victorian and Queensland elections where both states’ Liberal governments were toppled on the back of strong commitments from Labor for heavy investment into vocational education.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli announced that the government would back TAFE as the provider of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the state.
“Our announcement of 200,000 fee-free scholarships for disadvantaged students will help some of the most vulnerable people into study and work.”
As with all sweeping policy remarks and promises there is abject opposition. Shadow Minister for transport, Penny Sharp strongly criticised the government for its apparent hypocrisy in advocating increased investment in TAFE.
“The Baird government has slashed TAFE to the bone, they are now putting out little announcements about what they are going to fund, this is on top of the fact that they have sacked 11 hundred staff and hiked fees for students and lost a lot of courses.”
Standing outside of the fray is Greens MP John Kaye. His criticism was directed towards both parties although he specifically harangued Labor’s pledge of a reduction in fees as it had significantly increased them when in office.
To illustrate the level of contention the toing and froing of fee claims, a jewellery design student was quizzed on how she would make her decisions on furthering her education.
Ensconced at the Sydney TAFE Design Centre Enmore she admitted her decision was based on fees although as she was enrolled in an advanced diploma with one year left she expected a fee hike because she was fore-warned.
There was still a great deal of ambiguity in the exact level of increases as she’d received two letters in the last six months advising her of different amounts.
“Surprisingly I received a letter at the end of last year with the estimation of $1800 for the year and another one mid-January this year with the exact course fee which was $2500.”
“Some of my classmates who were not enrolled in advanced diplomas but were interested in doing the course have to pay almost 5 times more than me. Although, the exact amount is not finalised yet.”
Obviously issues such as these need to be ironed out – and quickly. Not only these but it appears that no-one is talking about the new computer infrastructure that isn’t actually enrolling students in 2015. Surely an impending crisis of this magnitude need to be the focus of both governments.