May 6, 2014  |  Adjournment

TAFE Funding

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.