Labor’s Plans To Strengthen The Vocational Education Sector

A Shorten Labor Government will undertake a comprehensive National Vocational Education and Training Sector Review to build a stronger VET sector and weed out dodgy providers and student rip-offs. 

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. 

Labor’s review will ensure the VET sector is properly equipped to train Australians for the jobs of the future, proper standards are enforced and the central role of our public TAFE system is recognised. 

Our national skills and training sector used to be the envy of the world – since the election of the Liberal Government it has been significantly damaged by shonks and sharks ripping off vulnerable people.  

People’s livelihoods are being destroyed – and their job prospects ruined.  It is a disgrace – and action must be taken. 

Having a strong VET sector is an important part of Labor’s plan to tackle inequality. 

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. 

While schools and universities have had full reviews into funding with the Gonski and Bradley reviews – the vocational education and training sector has been left behind.  The sector has not undergone a full review since the Kangan Report in 1974. 

It is time for a full review of the operation of the sector including quality, funding and access.  As new jobs emerge and existing industries go through extensive restructuring the nation will rely on an effective, quality vocational sector to provide the qualifications to enable people to enter the workforce, upskill or retrain. 

What we have seen from the Abbott/Turnbull Government is chaos in the sector followed by policy on the run.  

In the six months since Malcolm Turnbull was elected he has not backed TAFE once and has failed to put a stop to the rip-offs in the sector.  There have now been four different Ministers in just two years and the chaos continues. 

Billions of dollars have been wasted due to the Liberals refusal to act on the escalating VET FEE-HELP crisis with VET FEE-HELP loans escalating from $699 million in 2013 to $1.7 billion in 2014.  These figures are expected to hit $4 billion for 2015. 

To date, Labor has put forward a number of plans to guarantee funding for TAFE and to implement strong and sensible measures stop the shonks and sharks in the private sector. 

This adds to the announcement last year that a Shorten Labor Government would guarantee TAFE funding into the future by working with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector. 

Last year, Labor called on the Government to put forward strong, sensible measures to:

  • Establish a VET Ombudsman;
  • Cap tuition fees in line with how university fees are set;
  • Lower the lifetime limit for VET FEE-HELP loans to half the current amount;
  • Require loan applications for students to be handled by the department rather than a private college or broker;
  • Ban or place restriction on brokers;
  • Provide the Minister with the power to suspend payments to a private college under investigation.

There is abundant evidence that the vocational training sector must be underpinned by a dominant and viable public provider. 

Labor’s announcement today further demonstrates our commitment to protecting the reputation of the sector, prioritising the outcomes for students and meeting the national need for a well-trained workforce into the future.