The Electrical Trades Union has slammed Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s proposal to introduce HECS-style loans to the TAFE sector, saying it would lump apprentices with huge debts and worsen chronic skills shortages that are already impacting major infrastructure projects.
The union also attacked the Premier’s refusal to rule out the privatisation of TAFE, saying such a sale would only lead to an expansion of the rorts and failures of the scandal-plagued private training sector.
ETU secretary Justin Page said Ms Berejiklian could have avoided an expensive review of TAFE by simply reversing the policies of her government that have caused many of the problems facing the sector.
“Instead of spending millions of dollars on a review of the TAFE sector, which is clearly designed as cover for the NSW Government to further its ideological agenda against quality government-run skills training, Gladys Berejiklian could start by reversing the damage her government has done over nine years,” Mr Page said.
“Since the Liberals and Nationals took power in 2011, what was once a nation-leading vocational training institution has suffered massive budget cuts, the closures of campuses, the axing of courses, huge fee increases for students, and the dilution of curriculums.
“The result of these attacks has been a massive reduction in the number of people undertaking skills training, which is already resulting in chronic skills shortages that are hampering major infrastructure projects and driving huge cost blowouts.
“Introducing HECS-style TAFE fees will only see the price of courses skyrocket, lumping students with huge debts while on apprentice wages, providing a further disincentive to vocational training.”
Mr Page said TAFE was set up to be an affordable alternative to university to provide the practical skills needed to keep the economy ticking over.
“We’ve already seen what happens when this vision is replaced by a private, profit-driven model, and it is the scandals of recent years where training colleges have rorted taxpayers, ripped off students, and failed to deliver the skilled workers we need,” he said.
“This review looks alarmingly like a smoke-screen to justify further ideological attacks on the TAFE sector, using a new fee model to make it even more unaffordable, and allowing the closure or privatisation of colleges.
“TAFE worked well for decades, delivering great outcomes for students and providing qualified, skilled workers for NSW businesses.
“Rather than spending millions on a review that further undermines the sector, we need an urgent reversal of the cuts, fee increases, closures, and diluting of curriculum that are directly responsible for the chronic skills shortages now facing vital industries.”