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TAFE boss reveals industry concerns about course cuts

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Industry groups in areas including childcare, aged care and disability services have raised concerns about cuts to TAFE courses and the quality of training going forward under private providers, the TAFE SA boss has revealed.

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It also emerged today that northern suburbs students studying a Certificate III in carpentry at the Elizabeth campus will soon have to make a 100 kilometre round trip to complete their course at Tonsley.

TAFE SA chief executive David Coltman this morning told State Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee that “industries have raised concerns about the decision” to cut courses in vulnerable community areas, including childcare, aged care and disability services.

He said the their concerns “range from a desire to continue the ongoing relationship with TAFE SA and some perceived issues of quality relating to some providers, although no specific details have been provided”.

When asked how TAFE SA has responded to those concerns, Coltman said the organisation had pledged to provide teaching support to private training providers.

“Part of our partnership is to ensure that we will make available the resources that we have developed in those areas including teaching and learning resources and assessments so that those can be used across the private sector as well,” he said.

“Our interest is ensuring that the students of South Australia have the best teaching and learning opportunities and we will support that delivery.

“We always receive very positive feedback in the desire for people to study with TAFE.”

TAFE SA last year revealed that 20 courses would be scrapped from metro campuses this year, after InDaily revealed concerns from the Australian Education Union that many courses were at risk.

When asked today why the courses were being cut if industry groups had such serious concerns, Coltman said “the policy position of the government is to grow vocational education and training access and choice through the development of a contestable market”.

Coltman was also asked about “cuts” to a Certificate III carpentry course, that would require students currently studying at the Elizabeth campus to travel more than 50 kilometres to Tonsley to complete their course.

He said TAFE “will continue to deliver that course at the Elizabeth campus but with the consolidation of two training packages at a national level”.

“There will be some consolidation and for one or two units there may be the requirement for students to have to travel in order to complete the qualification,” he said.

“It relates to the newer requirements for the specialised equipment that is only available for students at Tonsley. It does enable the students to have a high quality teaching and learning experience.”

Coltman was asked if TAFE SA had taken into account the fact that many of those students would need to travel on the Gawler train line to get to Tonsley, but that the Gawler rail service was due to shut down at the end of April for an electrification upgrade.

“We understand that there will be a bus service provided to replace any train,” he said.

“The intention is to provide the best training experience and utilising the equipment that is available to students. We will certainly look to how we can support those students gong forward… on a case by case basis.”

David Coltman. Photo via www.swinburne.edu.au

Australian Education Union state president Lara Golding said the concerns raised by childcare, aged care and disability industry groups about course cuts should be taken seriously.

“TAFE is where students go to get a quality education and the Marshall Government needs to listen really carefully to industry,” she told InDaily.

“Our community can’t afford to have any questions about quality when it comes to training those who care for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Private training businesses exist to make a profit and when businesses seek to make a profit they sometimes cut corners. We really can’t afford to cut corners when it comes to these courses.”

Golding said she’d heard specific concerns about childcare courses.

“I have heard the level of supervision for students on work experience for those early childhood courses is not the same in private training businesses as it is when TAFE runs those courses,” she said.

Golding also lashed out at the revelation that students would need to travel across town to access their carpentry course.

“It’s clear that the Marshall Government needs to reinvest in TAFE or our community will pay for generations to come,” she said.

“It is not acceptable to expect students to have to travel 100 kilometres to get a qualification that our state needs for our economy.”

Opposition education spokesman Blair Boyer said “the Marshall Liberal Government has spent the past three years closing TAFE campuses, cutting courses and sacking staff”.

He said the Government had “so far, failed to come clean about their plans for TAFE, including ruling out further campus closures, staff redundancies and course cuts”.

Education Minister John Gardner said “Labor’s continuous and baseless attacks on non-government training providers demonstrate a complete lack of understanding on their behalf on how the training sector works”.

“We have always maintained that training in South Australia should be delivered by a mix of non-government providers, as well as TAFE SA, with our policy priorities being driven by what is in the best interests of students wanting quality training for a career, and industries who want a skilled workforce,” he said.

“As we continue to recover from the pandemic this is more critical than ever.

“Our priority is to deliver high quality training for students and businesses while delivering value for public money.”

Gardner said recent data had shown that South Australia was “leading the nation with the highest percentage increase of traineeship and apprenticeship commencements, which includes those delivered by TAFE SA, while the rest of the country has gone backwards”.

“TAFE SA has worked extremely hard to get itself on the right trajectory after the significant challenges it faced under the former government, and it will continue to play a critical role in skilling South Australians into the future, including supporting critical future industries such as defence and cyber,” he said.

Premier Steven Marshall also defended his government’s actions around TAFE.

“It’s the Liberal Government which has massively improved outcomes in TAFE,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

“We’ve pumped significant additional money into TAFE and into vocational education training. We are leading the nation in this area and yet (Opposition Leader) Peter Malinauskas still wants to complain about what is happening.

“The former Labor government left TAFE in a mess. They failed I think 16 out of 16 independent audits in terms of quality on TAFE.

“We’ve fixed the quality, we’ve pumped more than $100 million into TAFE, $288 million of new money into vocational education and training and now we’re actually delivering the skills that people want in this state.”

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