THE forecasts of cuts associated with the state government’s changes to TAFE program funding were bad but we didn’t expect the extent of what the University of Ballarat delivered yesterday.
The university says it has no choice but to slash between 50 and 60 VET programs and to make staff redundant. While the physical cuts to programs is disturbing, as is the loss of jobs, what really is concerning is the flow-on impact to the young, and older, people who undertake these courses. These are courses which often provide options for residents who want to learn new skills and fill jobs in areas where industries are desperate for skilled staff. And these programs provide options for many others who do not intend to apply for university courses.
In reducing funding, the state government has left providers with few options but to undertake quite radical action in dumping these courses. We expect that other TAFE schools will take similar action.
As has been reported since the budget was handed down, not everyone in the government was happy with the decision to reduce funding. In fact, it leaves Victorian Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall in an almost untenable position. It has been suggested that the cuts that Mr Hall will be charged with implementing will hit hardest in low-income regions – like his own electorate in the state’s east. Ballarat will also bear the brunt.
TAFE and vocational education enrolments subsidised by the government have climbed from about 350,000 in 2010 to almost 550,000, which the government says is unsustainable.
That may be the case but the alternative, which the University of Ballarat communicated yesterday, is surely a much worse proposition.
Now we have potentially hundreds, probably thousands, of people who will be forced to look at other training and career options – options which may not exist.
The University of Ballarat has laid the blame squarely at the feet of the government. The university’s actions, fully considered, will be perceived as rash by some and an overreaction to a situation which admittedly looks dire.
What’s best for skills growth is neither slashing budgets nor programs. It’s a desolate situation which training providers and the government must address to ensure that our already damaged systems can provide alternatives for those who need options to be better skilled for the future.