Fee-Free TAFE and more VET reform for NSW, WA and Queensland – what’s going on?
As the parliamentary inquiry into the Status and Perceptions of VET continues its hearings, it does so against the backdrop of yet more policy change in VET.
The NCVER has counted more than 700 new “national, state and territory programs and policy initiatives over the past 24 years that may have influenced enrolments and completions of VET courses, apprenticeships and traineeships”.
That is the equivalent of one major change in VET more than once every fortnight, every year, for 24 years.
They do so in the context of the first year of the Federal government’s new Fee-Free TAFE policy (and other changes to the VET sector eg new Jobs and Skills Councils, the establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia, etc).
Data recently released by the Federal government shows greater demand for Fee-Free TAFE places in some jurisdictions than in others; and in fact New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have had the highest take-up of the new Fee-Free TAFE places, yet in the last week the New South Wales government has identified a potential $200m funding cut for TAFE NSW in the next 12 months, while the Queensland Audit Office finds that TAFE Queensland is budgeting for an operating loss of $41.5m in 2022-23.
While the details of the Queensland VET review are yet to be announced – the NSW review aims to “restore TAFE to be the best it can be” and to address the:
- 45% decrease in TAFE NSW teachers from 2012 to 2022
- 15% drop in permanent teachers since 2015, replaced instead by casuals
- 33% decline in TAFE enrolments since 2012
- 33% drop in apprenticeship and traineeship commencements, and
- a 67% drop in TAFE completions since 2011.
Western Australia meanwhile has commenced a ‘Post-School Pathways Options’ review which, while not focussed solely on VET or TAFE, will consider “whether current pathway options are effectively preparing students for the full range of further study, training and work options available to them.”
While these reviews (and the policy reforms which have preceded them over the last two decades) are well intentioned, they nonetheless pose challenges for TAFE Institutes and other VET providers.
Gerard Healy, CEO of Kallibr Training, joined me on the latest episode of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast to explain how bad actors in the sector use these policy changes to exploit loopholes, and how the damage this does to the sector in turn makes it harder to attract high performing senior executives– which in turn impacts the performance of the sector.
Let’s hope that as policymakers embark on their latest round of reforms – they are thinking carefully about reform implementation and the (unintended) consequences of yet more policy changes in VET.