TAFE NSW staff and students are “in limbo” about the future of their jobs and courses, after the government was revealed to have budgeted $53.23 million for redundancy or restructuring expenses this financial year.
Opposition leader Luke Foley, Shadow Skills Minister Prue Car and Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp gathered at the Hamilton campus to brand the figure – published in NSW Treasury documents – as the government “further decimating” the institute.
“We’ve lost 175,000 students, 5700 teachers and support staff [across NSW since 2012] and fees have risen exponentially to the tune of $4000 or $5000, when does this stop?” Ms Car asked.
“Sacking TAFE teachers that teach critical skills in our classrooms is having a real impact on skills shortages right across our economy.
“What hope is there for the next generation of workers in the Hunter and right across this great state if the government is intent on continuously sacking the teachers who teach those skills?”
Mr Foley said the Hunter was in a precarious situation because of its double-digit youth unemployment rate.
“An attack on TAFE through soaring fees and mass sackings of staff does single out the Hunter and does punish the Hunter unfairly because there is an economic challenge here,” he said.
“That challenge can only be addressed by investment in upskilling young people and indeed mature age workers looking to rebuild their skills.”
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the government was reforming TAFE to “boost teaching resources, better meet student needs and remove unnecessary wastage inherited from Labor”.
“More than 400 new additional permanent positions have been created across the state, including 97 senior teaching leadership roles,” he said.
“The Hunter region is seeing enrolment growth in key skill areas with an 18 per cent increase across Certificate III and Certificate IV trade qualifications.”
Deputy secretary of the NSW Teacher’s Federation Maxine Sharkey said campuses were in “continuous flux”.
“TAFE teachers are saying ‘You’ve not only cut us to the bone, you’re now scraping away bone’,” she said.
“If your office still has you in it you know the one next door has no-one in it and you wonder when they’re coming for you.”
Mr Crakanthorp said Aboriginal Learning Circle positions were going “to disappear”.
“I’ve been contacted by local constituents who are very concerned about that,” he said.
Labor has said it will guarantee at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding for TAFE, plus set up a Private Providers Investigations Unit to target dodgy operators.
Mr Macdonald said TAFE NSW currently receives $1.7 billion – or 77.3 percent – of the $2.2 billion skills budget.