Liberals’ $1 Billion In Cuts To Apprentices = 609 Fewer Apprentices In Lindsay

Sharon Bird and Emma Husar today visited Kingswood TAFE to discuss the drop of apprentices in training in Lindsay and the importance of TAFE in training and re-training Australia’s workforce. 

The Liberals have cut $2.75 billion from the skills portfolio, including $1 billion in cuts to apprentices including the Tools for Your Trade program and access and mentoring programs.  

These cuts have hit local apprentices hard. 

They have had a devastating impact on apprentices in training in Lindsay with numbers falling from 2,981 in June 2014 to 2,372 in March 2015 – a drop of 609 local apprentices. 

In September 2013 there were 417,700 apprentices in training across Australia.  Because of the Liberal Government’s savage cuts there are now only 295,300 apprentices in training (September 2015).  

That is 122,400 fewer apprentices in training across the country.   

Their $1 billion of savage cuts include: 

  • Abolishing apprenticeship programs such as mentoring, access and the Apprentice to Business Owner program;

  • Replaced apprentice support with apprentice debt by abolishing the Tools for Your Trade Program;

  • Rebadged and cut funding to Australian Apprenticeship Centres;

  • Cutting Joint Group Training funding;

  • Cutting support for adult apprentices

Training the workers of the future is a critical issue for our economy, for productivity and for communities.  We need to put in place the next generation of skilled trades people to take on the jobs that are emerging and to ensure that we can meet future workforce needs. 

Before the election, Tony Abbott promised that the Coalition would provide better support for Australia’s apprentices – sadly they have cut funding and defaulted to their fall-back position of relying heavily on 457 visas without also investing in skills and training. 

The Liberals have an appalling track record in the vocational education sector so far – they cannot be trusted with our TAFEs. 

In New South Wales, the O’Farrell and Baird Liberal Governments, over the past three years, have sacked over 3,600 teachers and 1,000 support staff, course costs have escalated and the Liberals have further plans to close or cut regional campuses. 

Despite its importance to Australia’s social and economic future, Australia’s VET sector is at a crossroads. Costs are increasing but quality is declining, particularly in private courses and states which have experienced funding reductions. 

Bill Shorten has made it clear that the system has swung too far towards the private sector. For this reason we will work with the states and territories to put the balance right between the contestable and non-contestable funding model to ensure it delivers the outcomes that are intended.

In this year’s Budget Address in Reply, Bill Shorten announced that Labor would introduce a loan cap of $8,000 a year in the VET FEE-HELP program as part of an integrity package to stop the massive waste of taxpayers’ money, to prevent price gouging of students and improve training outcomes. 

Under the Liberals, the VET FEE-HELP loans scheme has escalated from $699 million in 2013 to $1.7 billion in 2014 and is expected to have blown out to over $3 billion for 2015.  

Last year, on National TAFE Day, Bill Shorten and Sharon Bird announced Labor’s plan to back TAFE into the future by developing a National Priority Plan to place TAFE squarely as the public provider within the VET sector and ensure TAFE’s viability and strength into the future. 

For the first time there will be a clear description at the national level on the role and purpose of public provision – it will describe what government expects from TAFE as the public provider and will make clear the aspects of TAFE that define its purpose and describes specifically how it is different from being just “another provider”. 

Having defined the unique role of TAFE as our public provider, the negotiation with the states and territories will work to deliver on this by providing quarantined and guaranteed funding to TAFE. 

Labor has also announced a full, evidence based review of the vocational education and training system to build a stronger VET sector and weed out dodgy providers and student rip-offs. 

The vocational education and training sector deserves a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to policy-making to ensure it is fit for the critical task of preparing Australians for the jobs of the future. 

It is vital that we train and retrain our workforce to deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation. 

MONDAY, 9 MAY 2016