Federal Labor's proposed overhaul of skills training provides a great opportunity to boost skills and jobs, but the government must avoid forcing students to pay more, says Greens Senator and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon ("Shortage of skills slowing NSW economy", p 2 Daily Telegraph today).
"The extra 320,000 skilled workers NSW needs has been exacerbated by federal Labor policy which is focused on privatising the VET sector and increasing the amount students pay on fees and charges," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The skills shortage is partly caused by the government policy shift that favours private vocational providers. In the last budget the federal government allocated $53 million to encourage companies to tender for VET.
"The job of these companies is to boost their profits. This means that courses that provide low or no returns are neglected. The outcome is the increasing skill shortage in the Australian workforce.
"Opening up vocational education to the private sector has hurt the public TAFE system. VET funding has to shift back to TAFE if comprehensive skills training is to be achieved.
"The VET sector is the worst funded education in Australia and has sustained reductions in government investment for almost 15 years.
"The mechanics, plumbers, electricians and engineers that NSW needs can be best achieved by providing free universal education.
"Australia can afford this, with the government itself acknowledges that skilling up the workforce will add an extra $2 billion a year to the economy.
"The years of Howard neglect of this sector should be turned around but the Gillard government is heading in the wrong direction.
"Rudd's 'Productivity Place Program' sent public funding to private-for-profit-providers. But the $2.1 billion allocated failed to achieve the aim of providing 700,000 plus places and has not delivered higher qualifications in areas of skill shortage," Senator Rhiannon said.
Audio of Senator Rhiannon's doorstop on this issue here.