TAFE has been a well established and trusted symbol for Technical and Further Education in Western Australia. It has a long history of positive outcomes and is a vital institution within our society. We all know someone who has benefited from receiving an education through TAFE or is in the process of receiving one.
Subsequent funding deficits have placed this most valuable institution at risk. A recent report by the Centre for Future Work (Pennington 2020) highlights the profound and valuable benefits of the vocational education and training (VET) sector, that produces outcomes above and beyond its economic costs to both federal and state governments. It is a sector that has been decimated by previous policy failures.
The world has been rocked by the recent effects of the global pandemic and the economic and social impacts of this pandemic are becoming apparent; as we move beyond the initial impact we need to look towards recovery. TAFE is well placed to positively contribute to help our society meet these challenges.
The TAFE system continues to be a valuable institution within Western Australia and it is vital that it is resourced fully to continue to provide high quality public training and education to help Western Australians prepare for their working lives, retrain to start a new career or further develop their skills and knowledge whilst being a conduit to increased economic recovery post COVID-19.
It is not only in the direct outcomes and value that the TAFE sector provides economic and social benefits: “Despite years of significant funding pressure and policy confusion, the TAFE system continues to make a strong and disproportionate economic and social contribution to the Australian economy” (Pennington 2020). It makes economic and fiscal sense to fund a system that continues to punch above its weight in terms of outcomes versus funding.
We congratulate the state government for the recent $57 million recovery package for the WA TAFE and training sector through the reduction in fees and short courses, which will enable many in the community to access TAFE. The investment of $167.4 million in TAFE infrastructure is also welcomed. However, this also brings new challenges of meeting the subsequent increase in activity. We have four key areas that will enable TAFE to meet these challenges and continue to play its special role in supporting the WA economy.
1. Quality teaching, training and learning
If the Western Australian government wants to support quality delivery and learning experiences, funding must be provided to ensure that learning and skills development is to the depth and breadth required by the key stakeholders: students, communities, industries, employers and the government.
To understand the need to adequately fund delivery and learning it is critical to have an awareness of what it takes to:
- Create and maintain quality learning experiences.
- Cater for students with special needs.
- Ensure appropriate and safe class sizes.
- Develop and implement blended modes of delivery where appropriate based on course content and student cohort.
- Support delivery and assessment in face-to- face classes for positive outcomes for all.
The SSTUWA seeks funding to support quality teaching, training and learning.
The SSTUWA seeks sufficient qualified staff to meet increased student enrolment.
The SSTUWA seeks a commitment that TAFE is the priority VET provider in Western Australia.
The SSTUWA seeks the return of TAFE course fees to their pre-2013 levels and an expansion of subsidised courses, particularly for vulnerable communities.
2. Professional development and training
Professional development for lecturers is not adequately funded under the current resource allocation model despite growing needs and compliance requirements.
- Funding needs to be allocated to support lecturers developing innovative delivery and learning initiatives. These funds needs to provide lecturers with time, resources and relevant assistance.
- Funding to be provided to adequately support teacher qualifications.
- There needs to be greater funding to support professional development in specialist industry areas and support for return-to-industry programs.
The SSTUWA calls for systemic professional development and teacher training to assist with the design and delivery of a high quality TAFE curriculum. Funding for this professional development is to be above and separate from the current funding formula for TAFE.
3. Information technology
Substantial additional funding is required for systemic ICT infrastructure (hardware and software), support (immediate on-campus support availability), maintenance, connectivity and training. This is vital to the provision of high quality education, especially with new and emerging industries requiring a highly skilled workforce.
The SSTUWA seeks funding for information technology including:
- ICT infrastructure
- Support (immediate on-campus support availability)
The SSTUWA seeks:
- The funding of ICT in TAFE colleges to be by way of a targeted initiative and specifically included in state government budgets.
- The provision of dedicated ICT support staff for the management of equipment and infrastructure at TAFE sites.
- The provision of dedicated ICT staff to support TAFE lecturers.
- Funded, ongoing professional development necessary for TAFE lecturers to keep up with emerging technology and/or its use as an educational tool.
- Technological resources to be made available to students free of charge, including regular maintenance and replacement [no bring your own device (BYOD)].
- Properly equipped libraries, resource centres and computer laboratories on campus.
4. Counselling services
Adequate and guaranteed funding needs to be provided for professional psychological, counselling, social welfare and career support services for students. TAFE organisations are now of a size to accommodate a small team of professionals, led by a qualified psychologist, to undertake a range of counselling and support functions such as:
- Career counselling and transition support
- Psychological counselling
- Personal counselling
- Social welfare support
The SSTUWA seeks provision of professional counselling services and career support for students.