A publicly owned and properly funded TAFE system plays an essential role in ensuring people have access to lifelong educational opportunities. TAFE provides practical and relevant industry skills for thousands of Western Australians. And yet, course tuition fees have increased 300% since 2013. Some courses have experienced increases of 600%. Along with the post-boom economic conditions, this has resulted in a 24.5% drop in enrolments; with a drop of more than 30,000 enrolments into genuine industry qualifications.
There has also been a drop of availability of courses. There are no courses in regional Western Australia (yes there are); a person who lives in Clarkson in Perth’s north and wants to study mechanics must travel up to 93 minutes by public transport to Midland. It shouldn’t be that difficult for anyone, but it is deeply concerning to see that kind of travel time required in the metropolitan area.
TAFE has also been undermined by the over-casualisation of its staff.
The state of TAFE is very worrying, particularly following the slowing of the WA economy post-mining boom. Investment in training services is essential to address unemployment and disadvantage. It should never be too difficult or too expensive for people to gain new skills.
Moreover, the slow years for the WA economy are expected to be short-term. The Chamber of Commence and Industry of WA has forecast that an extra 60,000 TAFE trained workers will be needed by 2025. If the Government does not take a long-term view and invest in TAFE now, WA will likely experience another skills shortage. We expect TAFE to be the backstop training option for people with special training needs and for courses requiring large and expensive equipment. We must fund our TAFEs and employ our TAFE staff securely to ensure that TAFE can be that institution for Western Australia.