Scholarships a ‘smoke screen’ for cutbacks
A SHARP drop in TAFE enrolments and a lack of certainty about the future has teachers worried.
One local TAFE teacher, who did not want to be named, said that this year he had seen a fraction of the enrolments of previous years.
He largely attributed this to a spike in fees, as well as a new computer system which made it difficult for potential students to enrol.
He said stripping TAFE funding back in favour of private institutions would spell trouble for the nation.
"We will have electricians who can't change a light bulb, and plumbers who can't fix a pipe," he warned.
This week, the New South Wales Teachers Federation accused the State Government of diverting attention from privatisation plans with the announcement of $48million in TAFE scholarships, if they were re-elected next month.
Tweed State Labor candidate Ron Goodman said the fee increase, which kicked in last week, would hurt TAFE students.
Labor has announced a $100million plan to "rescue" TAFE, in response to the State Government's scholarship plan.
"TAFE is critical for people looking to finish high school, get further education or re-train for a new career," he said.
"Many people across Tweed rely on a strong TAFE system."
Mr Goodman said the Nationals' changes to TAFE had seen courses cut, staff sacked and fees rising significantly.
"I know people in Tweed have had to take hefty loans to complete their courses - or have made the tough choice not to go back to TAFE at all," he said.
Tweed Nationals State MP Geoff Provest used to teach at TAFE in Sydney, and said he had seen first-hand the advantage the institution gave to jobseekers.
He said the Smart and Skilled scholarship plan wasn't a move to distract from deeper funding cuts.