Protecting the interests of vulnerable people from unethical RTOs

This excerpt from the latest Commonwealth HELP Newsletter in regard to marketing responsibilities of approved providers, advising that unethical marketing is reportable to ASQA is welcomed by the
TAFE Commuity Alliance

Program Assurance

Providers would be aware that the department monitors the take up of VET FEE-HELP to ensure that the scheme continues to fulfil its intent: i.e. provides access to loans for students who would repay these loans once they enter the labour market and earn over $51,309 per year. As a result, the Department considers data from a number of sources to ensure that loans are made available to people in accordance with the spirit and intent of the scheme. As well, the department receives feedback from students and others relating to misleading and unethical marketing tactics that may have been used by some providers and /or their agents.
While most providers appear to be operating in accordance with the spirit and intent of VET FEE-HELP, it appears that some providers have:
· targeted vulnerable people, including those people who do not have the aptitude, attitude or ability to complete a course;
· targeted people who have retired and left the labour market;
· offered inducements to prospective students to study at their institution, in return for a monetary or other reward;
· made misleading claims about the students’ ability to be employed and earn an income;
· provided misleading information to prospective students about the VET FEE-HELP scheme; and
· included ineligible content, including ‘nesting’ of non-eligible content into Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses.
All providers are reminded that unethical and misleading marketing of courses that comes to the attention of the department may be investigated as part of compliance activities and may be reported to ASQA for further investigation


TAFE cuts force axing of engineering, automotive manufacturing programs

Fairfax Media have seen leaked documents showing cuts are being made in South Western Sydney TAFE including halving teacher numbers and cuts to engineering and automotive manufacturing programs at three colleges next year, are because government funding under a new system will not meet program costs as TAFE is forced to compete with private companies from January next year.
Institute of Automotive Engineers chief executive Peter Blanchard said TAFE training was ''absolutely essential'' and the cuts to engineering courses would have a negative impact on industry. Greens MP John Kaye said: ''The loss of engineering skills at local TAFE colleges will undermine any opportunities for recovery in the manufacturing sector in south-western Sydney.'' Read more

Job scarcity fuels `social disaster'

The Australian Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said data released by the organisation today shows the delicate circumstances of Australia's young aged 15 to 24 getting worse. He also reiterated the agency's support for a youth wages scheme and said a decision last week by the Fair Work Commission to pay 20-year-olds at the adult rate was ``not helpful'' in a depressed job market. ``Essentially what the data shows is we in Australia are hurtling toward a social disaster and if nothing changes, if we do nothing, we're going to have unemployment rates as high as 40 per cent in some parts of the country,'' he said. Read more

Re-imagining the campus in the VET sector

Mary Leahy 21 March 2014,   The Conversation 

With technology changing the landscape of higher education, The Conversation is running a series “Re-imagining the Campus” on the future of campus learning. Here, Mary Leahy considers the impact of allowing non-TAFE training organisations access to TAFE facilities for the delivery of training. Read more

TAFE unveils 'mix + match' study

Tim Dodd, 24 March 2014, The Australian Financial Review
Australia's largest TAFE, the Western Sydney Institute (WSI), will introduce unprecedented flexibility into its qualifications, allowing students to start a course at any time and choose how, when and where they will study.
The new system, called "mix + match", will start on April 11. It will allow students in more than 12 different study areas to choose their course units in a similar way to online shopping, which is intended to make enrolment simpler. Read more

Turbulent times on the horizon for TAFE

March 24,2014 Geoff Maslen Sydney Morning Herald
"Something strange is going on in the Parliament of Australia: three federal parliamentary inquiries into Australia's technical and further education system have been established in the past year, two in the past month.
The first was when the then Labor government agreed last March to a Greens request to hold an inquiry by the House of Representatives education committee. Public meetings were held and 173 submissions received before prime minister Kevin Rudd called the federal election and the inquiry ceased."

NSW Parliamentary committee backs TAFE: Are you listening Mr Piccoli?

Greens Media Release, March 26 2014: A NSW parliamentary committee containing a majority of government members has thrown its support behind TAFE describing it as "the backbone" of vocational education and training (VET). The Economic Development Committee released its final report its report into Skills Shortages in NSW this afternoon.

Finding 4 states: "The Committee finds that TAFE NSW is the backbone of vocational education and training in NSW and that to achieve the state's economic and social priorities it is vital that TAFE NSW receives appropriate and adequate funding".

Greens member for Balmain Jamie Parker, who was a member of the committee said: "After hearing the overwhelming evidence, the Economic Development Committee recognised the value of TAFE and its importance to the future of the state's economy and social fabric. The committee looked closely at skills shortages and methods to address them and found that TAFE was a vital piece of the puzzle. However we also recognised that TAFE needs appropriate and adequate funding in order to help the state achieve its economic and social priorities. I challenge those Coalition members of the committee who I worked with on this report to support the Greens bill to save TAFE when I bring it on for debate in the lower house. The Greens bill will secure TAFE's future by putting an end to the budget cuts, student fee increases and Smart and Skilled market. If Smart and Skilled is not stopped, the O'Farrell government will be placing the economic and social priorities of the state at risk," said Mr Parker.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "The committee found that a strong well-funded TAFE system is vital for the economic and social future of NSW. The O'Farrell government's policy of undermining the public VET provider is now so unpopular that even Coalition MPs are calling for TAFE to be adequately and appropriately funded. Three out of five members of the committee are government MPs. TAFE is being pushed to the brink by their Coalition colleague Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. They need to take action urgently and bring these findings to Mr Piccoli's attention and demand that he fund it accordingly. The committee specifically noted the difficulties experienced for regional communities when TAFE Institutes are forced to trim down and consolidate courses. Forcing students to leave town, travel long distances or stop studying altogether is unacceptable. All regional MPs should take note of the committee's findings or risk condemning their communities to rising unemployment, social displacement and economic disadvantage. Almost 400 positions were removed from TAFE NSW in 2013, according to data obtained by the Greens. Under Smart and Skilled, from January 2015, TAFE will be stripped of the lion's share of its core funding and will be forced into an unwinnable competition with private providers. The course closures, teacher job losses and massive student fee rises are about to get a lot worse. It is time for the O'Farrell government to listen to the advice of its own MPs in the Economic Development Committee and put a halt on the budget cuts and the Smart and Skilled agenda that is threatening to destroy TAFE," said Dr Kaye.

Members of the Economic Development Committee

Chair: Mr David ELLIOTT (Lib, LA Member).
Deputy Chair: Mr Mark COURE (Lib, LA Member).
Mr Christopher GULAPTIS (Nat, LA Member)
Ms Noreen HAY (ALP, LA Member)
Mr Jamie PARKER (The Greens, LA Member)

Repurposing TAFE

One view as to how the VET Reform Taskforce can carry out a positive role for TAFE:

The problems facing the VET sector

"Serious structural problems beset Australia’s skills and training system. Low-quality provision and over-regulation highlight the shortcomings of skills and training delivery in parts of the sector.
The creation of a national training market intensified competition between public and private providers. Marketising VET has placed different incentives and pressures on TAFE institutions and private VET providers. Compliance with national frameworks has been a heavy burden."


Western Sydney and Blue Mountains Rally and forum to Save TAFE

Rally at Mt Druitt
Members of the TAFE Community Alliance were joined by concerned teachers, students and political parties in meetings in Western Sydney on 21 February. The message that TAFE is the number 1 provider of vocational education and training in NSW, and the State Government needs to restore funding to TAFE and to put an end to policies such as ‘Smart and Skilled NSW’ that will cut the number of TAFE courses offered in Western Sydney was supported. 
In Western Sydney, TAFE is valued for its ability to deliver courses which meet the needs of students, including those who are disadvantaged and require additional support. TAFE delivers courses directly in the community, and works with local groups to build the skills and knowledge needed for people of all ages to gain a successful career. TAFE still has the capability to provide student support services including multicultural, counselling, libraries and Outreach, to assist students to succeed. 
TAFE’s record in providing skills for individuals seeking to upgrade or change careers, particularly in new and emerging industries, is well known. It is these quality educational provisions that the short- sighted cuts by the O’Farrell government and the proposed changes of ‘Smart and Skilled’ NSW, put in jeopardy. The Alliance welcomes the Greens ‘TAFE Changes Moratorium’ Bill and urges all members of the State Government to support the Bill and their local TAFE colleges. 
Mary Waterford from the Western Sydney Community Forum, spoke for the TAFE Community Alliance recounting stories of people who had overcome complex barriers through TAFE and gone on to enrich communities. She said “TAFE plays a vital role in second chance education and the Blue Mountains is the richer for the many people who have benefited from our local College’s excellent teachers and facilities. We must not allow these resources to be eroded – it makes no economic sense long term.”

Rally Against TAFE Cuts in Orange

"The former Orange councillor and Greens education spokesman John Kaye launched Dr Kaye’s bill to freeze all budget cuts and restore TAFE funding to 2011 levels at the TAFE Western Orange campus yesterday."... Read more



THE chant "Fund TAFE art" was shouted from TAFE NSW Hunter Institute yesterday as students, teachers and politicians protested government cuts.
Over the past 12 months 55 jobs have been lost from the institute.
TAFE Community Alliance representative Kevin Heys led the rally and said students' were suffering from fee increases and the Smart and Skilled NSW reforms to be introduced. Read more.... 


Industry Minister Macfarlane says skills and training system needs urgent repair

What did the Federal Minister have to say about the skills and training system?  The TAFE Community Alliance suggests that the answer is quite clear about the need to properly fund and support TAFE, rather than continuing to undermine it. 

Industry Minister Macfarlane says skills and training system needs urgent repair

The Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane says that skills and training needs significant reform and better targeted spending to fix serious structural problems.
Speaking on ABC Radio National Breakfast last week, the Minister described the skills and training system as a “convoluted mess” left by the former government.
Planned reforms were needed “so that we are actually producing skilled people who are literate and numerate” and able to make a productive contribution to the workforce.
The Minister hosed down any suggestion that the upcoming budget would see increased funds for areas such as training, TAFE or apprenticeships, saying there will be “efficient use of the money that’s there”.
“I can guarantee that the skills training that will be offered will be of a higher calibre and will present workers that are better ready, better work-ready, than we have seen in the past,” the Minister said.
“The reality is that we have inherited a system in the skills and training area which is so close to broken, that we have regular meetings now with people who say, ‘for God’s sake just fix this – it is so complicated, it is so heavily regulated, it is so over-audited we’re not getting the results that we need to get’.”
Hear the Minister’s interview.