TAFE director appeals for federal support

TREAT US FAIRLY: TAFE NSW managing director Jon Black is concerned about onerous student loans and university-run diploma courses.

TREAT US FAIRLY: TAFE NSW managing director Jon Black is concerned about onerous student loans and university-run diploma courses.

TAFE diploma enrolments have plummeted by half due to red tape and federal intervention is needed to preserve quality training, according to the organisation’s managing director.

Jon Black spoke out on Tuesday, prompted by skills shortages in construction and early childhood in the state’s west, including Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo. 

He said while certificate enrolments were still healthy, diplomas had dropped by 51 per cent due to changes to vocational education and training (VET) loans in January.

There are currently 70,000 students enrolled in diplomas across the state, including 5000 in the western region, but Mr Black said the number should be closer to 110,000. 

“In early childcare, for example, to be a director of a childcare centre, you need to get a diploma,” he said.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has previously said changes to the VET scheme were needed because too many students were failing to complete their studies, but still accumulating debt at the taxpayers’ expense. 

Mr Black agreed there had been rorts in the previous system, but as a publicly-funded organisation, TAFE should have access to the university loans system.

“To get a TAFE loan you have to pass a language and literacy test, you don’t have to do that for uni,” he said.

“Loans have taken 13 weeks.”

Mr Black said the vast majority of students who did apply were accepted and TAFE endeavoured to help with their applications, but facing upfront costs was a nervous process for students.

Diplomas range from $4500 for business-related subjects to $85,000 for a pilot’s course. 

He said federal government intentions to support universities to deliver diploma-like courses threatened to derail TAFE. 

“A uni diploma in the theory, an academic way of learning, and it’s not going to provide the hands-on skills we require,” he said. 

According to recent research by McCrindle, 78 per cent of VET graduates successfully found work after graduation, compared with 67 per cent of university graduates.

For VET students training as part of a trade apprenticeship, the graduate employment rate was as high as 92 per cent.

The research also found VET graduates earned wages comparable to university graduates.

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