In an apparent funding backflip, the Victorian government has announced $200 million in funding for Victorian TAFEs despite slashing funding to vocational training last year.
The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry says while it welcomes the renewed funding, the cash does not go far enough to redress severe cuts made previously.
The $200 million will be provided across four years to Victorian TAFEs to support innovation and structural reform.
Announcing the funding boost, new Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said there are now 670,438 government-funded enrolments across Victoria, compared to 426,905 in 2010.
“The Victorian Coalition government is committed to providing every Victorian with the chance to access a quality training system full of rich training opportunities,” he said.
“It is also particularly pleasing to see that we now have a significantly higher percentage of students enrolled in courses that lead to jobs in areas with skills shortages.”
Napthine said the government will also give TAFE institutes greater control of their assets by transferring property titles, allowing TAFE institutes to re-invest the proceeds from sales, and by working towards more flexible financial arrangements.
This means plans by Swinburne and Victoria universities to sell off parts of their campuses which were blocked last year would be able to be approved.
It also aims to reduce the regulatory burden on TAFE institutes through streamlined reporting requirements and to allow TAFEs more control over workplace relations.
VECCI policy manager Andrew Rimington told SmartCompany there are still funding issues that need to be addressed.
“This decision does not actually fundamentally adjust the new funding arrangements that have been put in place, but what it does do is bring TAFEs a lot more flexibility,” he says.
“It does this through support for restructuring, reviewing the operations of governing councils and putting the TAFE sector on a commercial footing to try to achieve a truly competitive national training system.”
Rimington says the new model will give Victorian TAFEs control over their own assets, giving them financial benefits if they make decisions to sell surplus assets.
But he says VECCI continues to have concerns about funding cuts made last year, which Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews at the time described as “ripping the guts out of TAFEs“.
Last year, the government cut the funding TAFEs receive per hour of training provided, which the Victorian opposition estimated as being worth $450 million.
“We still have concerns about funding cuts across retail, tourism and hospitality which have all been affected by the high Australian dollar and tourism numbers,” Rimington says.
“We are keen to work with the government to determine how additional changes can be returned to those sectors.”
Rimington says VECCI is also concerned about funding for TAFEs in regional centres where there are low class enrolment numbers.