More than three-quarters of TAFE staff have considered leaving in the past three years, according to the results of a national survey released today.
The Australian Education Union’s (AEU) 2020 State of our TAFEs survey, the first detailed snapshot of the sector for a decade, has revealed the impact that billions of dollars of Commonwealth and state and territory budget cuts have had on the sector.
The survey also revealed major issues with workload, resourcing, and lack of staff support.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that TAFE urgently required investment from all levels of government to ensure that it can deliver high quality vocational education and be at the forefront of Australia’s post COVID-19 recovery.
According to the survey:
- More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) were aware that their institution had stopped providing particular courses in the last three years, with a lack of funding cited as the most common reason for course closure
- 81% of respondents said that the budget in their department had decreased in the last three years, while nearly half (49%) of those in teaching roles said class sizes had increased.
- Improved IT equipment (54%) and materials needed to deliver training (50%) were most frequently cited as requiring significant additional investment to bring up to standard
- Current levels of TAFE capital works and equipment investment were considered inadequate and requiring of some or significant investment by the vast majority of respondents, across the survey categories of IT equipment (88%), material support for workplace delivery (to deliver training) (89%), technical and administration equipment (90%), classrooms (81%), trade equipment (91%), studio equipment (75%) and library/learning centre (61%).
- More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents said that they had considered leaving the sector in the last three years.94% of those were currently working in the job that they had considered leaving.
- Less than a third of respondents expected to spend their entire career working in TAFE
- Workload and excessive hours, management approach to, and lack of support for, staff and arduous compliance requirements were the most commonly cited reasons for wanting to leave.
- 96% of respondents said administration had increased as a proportion of total work time in the last three years, and of these 84% said it had increased significantly
Ms Haythorpe said that budget cuts at all levels of government had led to the total number of TAFEs falling to 35 nationally in 2017-18, down from 57 in 2013/14. She said the subsequent campus and course closures have had a detrimental impact on students and staff, leading to increased workloads and low morale.
According to the Report on Government Services, total annual government VET expenditure has fallen by $1.6 billion (21.3%) from the 2012 peak of $7.65 billion.
Since 2013, the Federal Coalition:
- cut $3 billion from vocational education
- oversaw 140,000 fewer apprentices now than when it was elected
- closed the $3.9 billion Education Investment Fund
- cut a further $325.8 million in funding from TAFE and vocational education budgets In 2019
Ms Haythorpe said that it was essential that funding and prominence be restored to TAFE in acknowledgement of the organisation’s unique position and ability to provide hope, opportunity and lifelong qualifications and skills for millions of Australians.
“Three-quarters of respondents to our State of our TAFEs survey have said they have considered leaving TAFE in the past three years, with nearly three-quarters of respondents reporting unmanageable workloads at least half of the time,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“This is a wakeup call to governments across the nation.”
“Once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, Australia will have an urgent need for qualified workers across all industries, and TAFE is the only institution that has the infrastructure, the workforce and the trusted reputation to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“We need to invest in TAFE as the anchor institution of vocational education, to ensure that it is the centrepiece of the effort to rebuild Australia’s economy,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Australia’s TAFE teachers stand ready to help the nation get back on its feet, but the government needs to back them with the funding and vocational education policy support needed for the sector.”
“TAFE offers high quality vocational education at all levels, with nationally accredited programs, a highly qualified and experienced workforce, campuses across Australia, and it has the trust and respect of employers and the community.”
“A strong, fully-funded TAFE sector must be at the centre of the Commonwealth’s response to the economic challenges facing Australia post COVID-19,” Ms Haythorpe said.
State of our TAFEs – Key survey findings
- The AEU’s comprehensive State of Our TAFEs survey, the first for a decade, provides key data about AEU member perspectives on working in TAFE
- 1,438 responses in total, with responses coming from every TAFE institution in Australia
- Two thirds (68%) of respondents were Teachers/Lecturers and an additional 15% were in management positions.
- The survey respondents have a high level of experience with an average of 17 years in the TAFE sector and an average of 15 years with their current employer.
Resources are reduced, class sizes have increased and significant investment is needed
- More than two thirds (68%) were aware that their institution had stopped providing particular courses in the last 3 years, and across all subject areas a lack of funding was the most common reason for course closure, followed by insufficient student numbers, and a lack of qualified teachers.
- The most frequently defunded courses were Creative Arts, Engineering and Languages, Literacy and Numeracy courses.
- 81% said that the budget in their department has decreased in the last three years and nearly half (49%) of those in teaching roles said class sizes had increased.
- Improved IT equipment (54%) and material support for workplace delivery (50%) were most frequently cited as requiring significant additional investment to be brought up to basic standards
- The need for substantial capital works and equipment investment in our TAFE campuses is so great, that current levels of investment were considered inadequate by a majority of respondents across seven areas of resource,.
- For IT equipment, material support for workplace delivery, technical and admin equipment and trade equipment only 10-12% considered current investment to be adequate.
Many experienced and valuable TAFE staff are considering leaving the sector
- More than three quarters (76%) of respondents said that they had considered leaving the sector in the last three years.94% of those were currently working in the job that they had considered leaving.
- Less than a third expect to spend their entire career working in TAFE and 45% expect to work in the sector for less than 5 more years
- Workload and excessive hours, management approach to and lack of support for staff and arduous compliance requirements were the most commonly cited reasons for wanting to leave.
Intensity and pace of work
- 93% said that the pace or intensity of their work has increased over the last three years, with 75% saying that it has increased significantly
- Only 2% said that their workload had reduced, either significantly or slightly.
Are workloads manageable?
- 73% reported that their workload is unmanageable at least half the time (including 10% who said it was entirely unmanageable and 35% who said it was unmanageable most of the time)
- Only 2% of people said that their workload is always manageable.
- Administration was seen as having the largest increase as a component of total work time. and as the top factor driving workload (selected as the number one factor by more than half of all respondents, and more than three times as popular as any other option)
- 96% said admin had increased as a proportion of total work time in the last three years and 84% said it had increased significantly
Workload and working hours
Across all respondents working in TAFE, both full time and part time, working hours exceed contractual hours by an average of 26%.
- Full time workers reported working and average of 43 hours per week, 21% above their contractual working hours – this equates to an additional day of unpaid work every week.
- For part time workers, work time exceeds their contracted hours by an average of 43%
- Those employed on very small fractions (0.2 – 0.4 FTE) are most likely to report working well above their contracted hours with many reporting that they are working double the amount of time they are paid for each week.
- On average, TAFE members in their first three years of working in the sector are working an average of 28% more hours each week than they are contracted to work (almost an additional day and a half a week for full time workers)
- 30% of TAFE teachers are working in excess of 45 hours per week on average, and some reported working in excess of 65 hours per week.
- Nearly three quarters of people stated that their workload had increased over the last 5 years, almost half (46%) stated it had increased significantly and 26% stating it had increased slightly.
- 21% indicated that their working hours had not changed and less than 7% stated that working hours had reduced.
TAFE funding cuts
According to the Report on Government Services 2020:
- In 2017-18 total government expenditure on vocational educational fell by $252 million to a total of $6.02 billion, a decline of 4.0% from the previous year. This was the lowest spend in real terms of any year over the last decade
- This is an expenditure decline of $1.6 billion (21.3%) from the 2012 peak of $7.65 billion
- Total annual hours provided by government expenditure continued to fall to 36.4 million, a decline of 6.4% from last year and of 30.6% from the 2012 peak
- In real terms and excluding user cost of capital, total Commonwealth, State and Territory government expenditure onVET is now lower than at any point in the last decade,and has fallen by over $1.3 billion since 2013.
- Total government spending on VET peaked in 2012 at $6.7 billion, real 2018 funding levels are 21.4% lower than they were in 2012.
- Real Government recurrent expenditure per person aged 15-64 years (excluding user cost of capital) has declined in nationally by 15.2% in the last decade, and has also declined by 26.7% from its 2012 peak.
- In every jurisdiction except Tasmania per person spend has fallen from 2009 to 2018, by -23.3% in ACT, 22.3% in WA, -18.4% in VIC, -16.4% in SA, -12.4% in QLD and -12.1% in NSW.
 IT equipment, material support for workplace delivery, technical and admin equipment, Classrooms, Trade equipment, Studio equipment and Library/Learning Centre