RALLIES in Armidale and Glen Innes on proposed changes to TAFE have heard regional communities stand to lose the most if publicly-provided vocational education and training is weakened in the process.
Greens MP John Kaye was in the region last weekend to launch a bill the party is putting forward with the aim of stopping the NSW government’s Smart and Skilled program, under which TAFEs will compete with private training providers for students in an open training market.
Government subsidies will also be limited to courses in priority industry areas.
The program is due to start in December.
Opponents fear the changes will force course price rises, less popular courses will be defunded and lost and there will be staff job losses and campus closures across the state.
“Without a strong public provider of vocational education and training, regional NSW and communities throughout New England will face rising youth unemployment, increasing levels of inequality and disadvantage and an economy that is unable to grow,” Dr Kaye said.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall described Dr Kaye’s comments as “scaremongering” and said TAFE had nothing to fear from the new approach to vocational training.
He said TAFE had always had a business model that enabled it to respond to change and shifting community demands, and it was “in a prime position to continue to be the chief training provider in NSW”.
“Instead of talking (TAFE) down, (the Greens) should be talking it up and encouraging people to support it,” he said.
New England Greens convener Elizabeth O’Hara said those at the meetings were “determined to fight to save TAFE in New England” and would lobby Mr Marshall about supporting the Greens’ bill.