The State Government should find funds from general revenue not from the pockets of private training providers if its goal is to “prop up” TAFE, according to Business SA’s director of policy Rick Cairney.
“It would appear that the real reason for the State Government’s decision to hand 90 per cent of the 2015-16 training places to TAFE is simply to prop up the organisation after the Government itself embarked on a path of reducing TAFE’s workforce and budget,” Cairney said.
“In doing so, it appears that the Government is quite happy to see private training providers shed hundreds of jobs with some facing closure of their businesses.”
Cairney said the State Government announced in last year’s Budget that 300 TAFE jobs would be lost over the next 12 months, with a resulting budget saving of $90 million.
“However, it was also then reported that a leaked Parliamentary briefing note prepared for the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Gail Gago, revealed that a reduction in TAFE staff numbers would cut its budget by $94 million a year to $251 million by 2017-18,” Cairney said.
“If the Government has now realised the error of its ways and wants to support TAFE, it should not be doing so at the expense of very cost effective and efficient providers in the private sector.”
The State Government’s decision, announced just over a week ago, to award 90 per cent of the 51,000 subsidised training places under the new WorkReady program for 2015-16 to TAFE provoked a major backlash from private providers, representative bodies like Business SA, and the Federal Government.
Cairney said it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the State Government was propping up TAFE.
“Minister Gago has referred to TAFE being ‘supported to become more sustainable’ and the Premier, in Parliament this week, said that TAFE ‘needs a critical mass’ to implement a reform program,” Cairney said.
He said the issue was not only one of achieving the best, balanced mix of private and public sector training but also a question of choice for students.
“At a meeting last week I heard a trainee nurse, who is a mother working fulltime and studying at night, express her concerns.
“She said that after careful consideration she chose to do her training with a private provider and was upset that she would no longer be able to exercise her right to choosed.
“With the private providers offside, students frustrated and confused, and the Federal Minister threatening to withhold $65 million in training funds from South Australia, the State Government must move quickly to clean up this mess that it has single-handedly created.”
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