Mr HOWARD (Ballarat East)— I have a matter to raise for the attention of the Minister for Higher Education and Skills. I ask the minister to take action to review the TAFE funding model with a view to seeing course options in the hospitality and retail areas reintroduced into the Ballarat region.
Ahead of the TAFE cuts I spoke to many TAFE students in Ballarat, and I know that they and TAFE staff were very distressed to learn about the massive TAFE funding cuts undertaken by this government which saw funding removed from courses which, according to the government, did not lead to real job opportunities for students. At the time the government advised that there were too many students studying in areas where there were not strong job prospects or where the large number of students studying in that field resulted in oversupply relative to the positions available in the workforce.
The bizarre example given by some members of the government of courses not resulting in job prospects was belly dancing. I have yet to find any belly dancing courses in the Ballarat region. As a result of these so-called belly dancing courses, funding was significantly cut to many TAFE courses around the state. In Ballarat, at the then University of Ballarat, something like 47 courses were cut from its TAFE offering in line with the government funding model. This saw hospitality and retail courses go as well as courses in horticulture through to business courses and a range of others.
At the time these cuts were announced I spoke to many students who were extremely disappointed that they could not take the courses which they had been working towards. Now, two years after the cuts were announced, employment service providers in Ballarat are telling me the cuts have meant that there are now numerous job opportunities open which they cannot fill because they cannot find applicants with the appropriate skills. Surprise, surprise!
These relate to hospitality and retail areas. These are not the only skill areas that are now undersubscribed. I therefore urge the minister to undertake a review of the decision taken by his government.
I know that in this budget there is no additional funding for TAFE, but it has not of course been voted on, and there are opportunities to review issues within the budget. I ask the minister to review this decision in regard to TAFE funding to find ways of putting money back into courses like horticulture and retail, which are going to see unemployed people in my area undertaking skills training to get them into the important job areas that are available in my community. I think that can spread across to many other courses as well.