TAFE helps skills shortage more than private providers

The TAFE sector has faced cuts, but it may be our best way of addressing the skills shortage. AAP/April Fonti

The Vocational Education and Training sector (VET) is doing more to address Australia’s skills shortage than private providers, according to a new paper from the Centre for Policy Development.

The paper’s author, Christopher Stone, found that in Victoria 29% of TAFE students are being trained to fill jobs affected by the skills shortage, compared to less than 20% of students in private training facilities.

Stone said the sector also provided greater benefit to wider society than other education providers.

Nationally, TAFE had a greater share of disabled students (7.2%) than the private education sector (4.2%), and also had a greater regional and rural footprint.

Stone is using these findings to argue that recent cuts to the VET sector are misguided.

“The major finding is that the evidence is often ignored in reformations of TAFE,” he said.

“That’s been true in the past and right now with both Victorian reforms and with NSW and Queensland following on.”

He said TAFE provides a return on investment for governments, and should be subsidised to reflect this.

“Obviously TAFE is good for individuals, for their personal development and career,” he said.

“But in terms of spending taxpayer’s money, we need to be making sure we are subsidising the VET sector in a way that is good for our economy.”

Associate Professor Leesa Wheelahan of the LH Martin Institute said private providers were not adequately covering Australia’s training needs.

“The report explains why it isn’t possible to leave TAFE as a residual provider of last resort that undertakes training private providers don’t want to do,” she said.

“Allowing private providers to offer high volume, cheap to run programs while TAFE is left running expensive programs will endanger the long term viability of TAFE, but also run down provision in regions and rural areas, and result in reduced access for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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