Abbott to reshape TAFE funding after a decade of cuts

EMPLOYERS will guide the future training of apprentices under a controversial move to re-shape Australia's vocational education system announced today.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott released details of a $200 million apprenticeship support network, to be funded by gutting existing programs.

As the government looks to tackle record high youth unemployment rates around the country, the new apprenticeship system will also include some funding for young workers aged 15 to 18 years old to get support to find a job.

But, while welcomed by public and private operators of TAFEs around the country, the new policy announcement follows new research showing a massive "10-year erosion" of TAFE funding.

The Mitchell Institute of Health and Education Policy research found the VET system was subject to an "unprecedented level of funding disadvantage when compared with schools and universities".

It prompted a call from both the private and public TAFE sectors for a national "independent assessment of funding trends and needs".

TAFE Directors Australia, representing public operators, released a statement saying the research revealed an "alarming pattern of inadequate investment in the VET sector, which threatens to undermine Australia's capacity to build the workforce of the future and poses a grave risk for individuals who need skills to share in the country's economic prosperity".

Chief executive Martin Riordan said the sector had faced the full brunt of $1 billion under the previous Labor Government, as well as a further $1 billion in cuts in the Abbott government's first budget.

"We need to ensure that young people who have a passion for their trade get the chance to establish early workplace relationships, confidence and practice," he said.

"We will be keen to monitor these new arrangements, and will be supporting employers in the transition.

"As the major and often sole training provider in regional and rural Australia, TAFE institutes are strongly positioned to support employers under this program," Mr Riordan said.

Part of Mr Abbott's wider "earn or learn" edict, the program will be focused on providing employers with the skills they most need to "grow their business".

But the new scheme, shaped by industry and "local chambers of commerce", seems to have little role for the unions under which many apprentices complete their training.

Mr Abbott said the new "employer-led and outcome-focused" system was necessary to have a "sustainable, decent and compassionate system".

Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane said the initiative was about "training to get a job" and not "training for training's sake".

"We want a training and apprenticeship system that actually works, that gives people a real chance and, most importantly, turns out people that employers want to employ," he said. - APN NEWSDESK



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