Productivity Commission report prioritises profit over public education

The Productivity Commission’s final report into the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD), recommending that governments should continue their agenda for more contestable funding for the VET sector, will see a further narrowing of options for students and diminish Australia’s vocational education sector.

Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said: “Governments must ensure that Australia’s strong TAFE system is properly funded to minimise the economic consequences of the COVID pandemic.”

“TAFE is the best way to ensure that Australians can access a quality and rounded education provided by industry experts, with the extra learning supports in place that make the difference between a student passing or failing a subject.”

“Therefore it is unbelievable that the Productivity Commission would recommend increased contestability and force TAFE to compete as ‘just another provider’ in the marketplace, when TAFE generates a staggering $92.5 billion in economic benefits each year, which is 16 times the annual cost of running the institution[1],” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We need a strong TAFE more than ever now. The majority of RTOs in this country provide less than 15 courses, while TAFEs are able to provide up to 500 thanks to guaranteed public funding.”

“Take TAFE funding away and there will a narrowing of education choice for the millions of Australians looking to reskill or upskill. Private RTOs are only interested in offering profitable courses in profitable regions,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE’s scale and access to quality vocational education has given millions of Australians a real chance of a secure career. That’s why Australians hold TAFE in such high esteem. In a survey late last year, 94% of Australians said they wanted to see more Federal funding for TAFE to help the country recover from recession.”

“Yet we have seen TAFE defunded and the number of TAFEs drop from 98 in 1996 to only 35 in 2018. Regional and rural communities are the hardest hit, as there is no profit for private providers in these markets and people are left behind. There is nothing in this report that addresses this issue.” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Federal Government must ditch its failed VET marketisation model. It has seen billions of dollars of funding stripped from TAFE and millions of dollars funnelled into the pockets of dodgy private training providers.”