While telling lies and distorting the truth is expected from politicians these days, there has been one message that I have heard over and over again during this election that I can't ignore - "Liberal's TAFE cuts". It is misleading (surprise, surprise) and I think people should know the broader context.
Firstly, there are a variety of institutes/organisations that provide vocational education and training (VET) in Australia. These include TAFEs, universities, community providers, private training organisations, industry training organisations, etc.
The history of VET in Australian is actually quite interesting, but I want to keep this post succinct (somewhat). What is important to know is that the majority of VET funding was previously channelled to TAFEs. However, COAG (Council of Australian Governments) issued a policy that training funding should be contestable for lower level VET courses (e.g., Cert I to Cert III).
Why would COAG do that? Because the overwhelming feedback from individuals and employers is that TAFEs are inflexible and are not providing training and skills that meet industry needs. This is why many enterprises are registering their own training organisations and training their own staff.
VET is meant to be about providing skills that our workforce needs, that industry and business needs. When those needs are not being met, something needs to change.
Most States have already adopted contestable funding models (although NSW tried to resist for as long as possible). There is the Certificate 3 Guarantee in Queensland, Skills for All in South Australia, Smart and Skilled in NSW and the Victorian Training Guarantee in Victoria.
All of these reforms and programs are demand/consumer driven. This means that the organisation that student chooses is the organisation that gets the funding.
I'm the first to admit that there are some 'dodgy' training organisations out there, but they are a minority. Regardless, giving students/employers a choice make sense.
I should note that other funding cuts (e.g., reduction to subsidy rates) have also affected TAFEs in Victoria, but they haven't been specifically aimed at TAFEs. All Victorian training organisations were affected by these cuts.
If TAFEs want to survive they need to adapt to their environment, after all it's greater competitiveness that COAG was trying to stimulate in the first place. But I assure you that regardless of the number of TAFEs in Victoria, there will still be access to great training.
(Please note - I'm not politically aligned and I usually try to avoid the circus, although I do strongly support our right to vote.)