The challenge for TAFE: less complaining more competing

The cold war between advocates of VET and higher education is heating up. For months Labor frontbenchers have talked up TAFE (they use it as a synonym for training) and called for more funding. Last week NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie used graduate unemployment as one of the reasons for blocking the government’s HE funding changes. And yesterday the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported the head of TAFE NSW getting stuck into university education along the same lines.

Not so, according to state education minister, Rob Stokes. “It is a mistake to talk down the value of universities in a populist attempt to pit the higher education and vocational education sectors against each other the NSW education minister says.

“Both sectors are vitally important to NSW, and it is important that people have a range of choices when it comes to tertiary education. It is unhelpful to suggest that one is better than the other.”

While TAFE is not in his portfolio, Mr Stokes does not have much choice but to speak up.

There is no doubt TAFE is in image trouble – seen as second-best by young people across the country and ignored by many who actually want to learn trade skills not a degree (CMM ). But whose fault is that? The TAFE lobby fairly blames the VET FEE HELP shambles but also says there is no role for private providers in training. However state governments that have not reformed TAFE to compete with universities have much more to do with it. The reality is that employers with workers training at TAFE are generally ok with it.   New research from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports 81 per cent of such employers are satisfied with provided training. Less TAFE complaining more competing will cool things down.


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