NSW opposition skills spokeswoman Prue Car was at the gate of Illawarra TAFE’s Bega campus on Friday morning with concerns for TAFE job security in the region.
It was her last stop on a tour of TAFE campuses on the South Coast, a region she said is set to lose 24 head teachers before the end of the year, a claim rejected by TAFE NSW.
Ms Car was joined by South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris and Bega Labor spokeswoman Leanne Atkinson who shared her concerns about the changes to TAFEs following the introduction of the Smart and Skilled program in 2015.
Under the Smart and Skilled program, certain courses fees are subsidised by the government depending on what skills are needed in NSW industries.
Ms Car argued this leaves other courses under staffed, under resourced and turns prospective students away from choosing to study through TAFE.
Mr Rorris agreed the new system was tough on employers and students. “A combination of underemployment and skills shortage is the start of a crisis,” he said.
“The old system saw this region out for decades, we should be returning to that tried and true method.”
Ms Atkinson said providing greater variety of courses was vital for regional TAFEs.
“We are already working against social and transport disadvantage, and now we are seeing students who have to pay higher student fees for less face-to-face learning,” she said.
A TAFE NSW spokesperson conceded changes to student loans by the federal government led to a reduction in enrollments. They added the system was biased toward people going to university.
However, TAFE NSW said 11 new head teacher roles will be created in Southern NSW under the new One TAFE initiative. One TAFE aims to invest more into teaching rather than administration costs, which previously took 40-60 cents per dollar of TAFE funding.