Reviving TAFE

I’ve just been invited to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into TAFE in South Australia. From what I can glean, this is a politically motivated exercise by the Turnbull government to make capital out of some embarrassing failures in a Labor state. But it gives me the incentive to write something about the catastrophic failure of vocational education and training in Australia, a failure for which there is plenty of blame to go around. Rather than making political capital out of such incidents, we need to rebuild the TAFE system as the core of a greatly expanded vocational education and training system, including public and non-profit institutions, free from the discredited ideology of markets and competition.

Among the points I want to cover

* The impact of decades of cuts in public support for vocational training
* The disastrous effects of subsidising for-profit providers
* The goal of universal participation in post-school education and training
* Integration of technical/vocational and university education

26 thoughts on “Reviving TAFE

  1. I started work as an apprentice in 1977, a 4 year apprenticeship, Printing Industry. That was my first trade.
    Second “trade’ was started in 1996, now called a Cert iv Traineeship, Horticultural Industry. I completed that in 18 months, with 80% of the content being online and submitted Tick box checklists, work oversight was very minimal and perfunctory, the focus was on working flat out.

    I have been back to work in Printing a number of times over the years, always there is next to no “apprentices”, I have been highly pressured to train younger tradespeople and trainees, for no reward or extra remuneration. In most, but not all cases I have earnt less in printing (in real terms) in 2000, 03, 04 and 2010, than what I did in 1983.

    In my humble opinion, (narrow view) the 1970/80’s era system of Trade schools, block training and strong workplace oversight worked well. Sure there was efficiency issues, but mostly we got good, experienced and well qualified tradespeople out of it.

    My experience of the ‘current’ Cert Traineeship system is almost uniformly negative, the focus seems to be on push them through so we can claim the bonus/subsidy. Workplaces have a pay as little as we can and casualise as much as we can attitude.

    In saying that I recently completed a Cert iii in Provide Personal Care, as I have wanted to continue working in Community Services. The Training organisation I went through, (Maxima) were fantastic, great trainers, great supports, excellent processes and follow up; but how do we identify and highlight the good Training organisations from the bad.

    My eldest son is now looking for a Heavy Diesel Mechanic apprenticeship in Darwin; this after 2.5 years of an Engineering Degree in Adelaide. He got smart and met with working Engineers, followed them at their workplaces and decided, no not for me, he wants to be ‘hands on’. Of course I support that,with a tinge of worry/guilt, he has seen me work across multiple industries, organisations, sectors and geographic locations, always low to average pay, always kind of struggling; but mostly doing the work I choose and for the best reasons. I respect that he has made a balanced, thoughtful choice, proud I am.

    I don’t pretend to have the answers but I do have a lot of experience with the systems, pretty much all of the apprentices I have talked with say that being locked into a low % of the Tradepersons Award is the number 1 reason they don’t stay with it.

    A story that stuck with me from when I was a 2nd year apprentice; a crsuty old tradesman paid me out for not paying attention to what he was showing me; “Boy you listen up and think good, I teach you everything I know, which is everything my teachers knew. Your job is to add to that knowledge, taking in the modern changes coming and most important when you train your apprentices, they get to learn everything you know, which is everything I have shown you. So kid listen good”. Vale Alan Lethbridge.

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