For all media enquiries and additional information please contact the AEU via [email protected].
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) predicts the sector will need an extra 30,000 educators and 9000 teachers by 2023.
The recent Federal Budget provided long-awaited certainty on preschool funding, as well as changes to child care subsidies, which are aimed particularly at helping more women return to work when they want to. While extremely beneficial, these measures should also be supported by proper workforce planning to ensure that the sector has the workforce needed for the future.
Teachers and educators working in preschool, kindergarten and long daycare services, as well as family daycare services must meet the qualification requirements set under the National Quality Framework – which range from Certificate III through to Diploma and Bachelor degree qualifications.
With the demand for educators, in particular, skyrocketing TAFE is well placed to provide the vocational education and training needed to support and deliver the qualified personnel to meet this increasing demand right across the country.
As the leading provider of vocational education in Australia, TAFE supports the delivery, training and assessment for students undertaking Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma and in some locations Bachelor qualifications required for early childhood educators and teachers under the National Quality Framework.
The federal government’s National Workforce Strategy must recognise TAFE as the solution for addressing the workforce shortage. There is strong evidence that TAFE is the preferred choice for most employers thanks to its stellar reputation in the sector.
Liz Ingram, Head Teacher of Early Childhood Education at Tamworth TAFE explains “TAFE has a sound reputation among Early Childhood employers. TAFE Early Childhood Teachers work diligently and collaboratively with local Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services in their community to ensure the provision of quality work placement opportunities for student educators. This gives TAFE students the edge and makes them the preferred choice time and again over students from private providers.”
“By studying through TAFE – students have access to the guidance of dedicated and professional teachers who are passionate and experienced in the early childhood sector and who deliver the training in a holistic and personal manner, catering to the students’ individual needs and also linking students to relevant support services throughout their learning journey”.
It has been demonstrated time and again that the quality of the early childhood and care sector is inextricably tied to the quality of training provided to those who work in it and this is what gives TAFE graduates the edge.
For Michelle Purdy, Federal TAFE President and Support Services Worker at TasTAFE, ensuring students are job ready is more than just gaining essential industry experience. “TAFE is the full package. All TAFE students can take advantage of support services that assist students who may need extra support with their literacy and numeracy skills. We also o�er dedicated support in English language for migrants who may need it. TAFE also has targeted support programs for Aboriginal students and migrants, which goes a long way to making preschools and other early childhood settings more culturally safe and inclusive when they complete their qualifications.”
The support and encouragement of dedicated teachers made a real impact on one of Liz Ingram’s students who studied for a Certificate II and enjoyed it so much she enrolled at the local TAFE to continue the pathway onto a Certificate III in early childhood and then a Diploma in early childhood studies, which quickly led to a job in the sector. After a long career in childcare she returned to TAFE to do her Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and now teaches the next generation of educators at TAFE.
She is just one of the many committed students that Liz Ingram has taught over her 22 years teaching. Ingram wants to see TAFE properly funded and resourced with more highly qualified staff who are adequately supported.
“Our passion is education, that’s why we’ve become TAFE teachers. It’s very disappointing to have that passion continuously knocked out of you as a result of not being able to get funding,” Ingram says.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe wants the federal government to launch a coordinated effort to put TAFE at the forefront of an urgently needed early childhood education workforce strategy.
“TAFE’s regional footprint would enable governments to target local needs effectively ensuring that students can study and potentially work in their local communities. Leaving the creation of a major pipeline of workers to the whims of a contestable market won’t address shortages” she says.
“But first the federal government need to restore the more than $3 billion funding cut from TAFE and training since 2013, including the nearly half a billion cut in 2018 and 2019 alone.”
The Early Childhood sector is clearly in need of an effective national strategy for workforce renewal. Only TAFE can provide the wrap around support that is needed to lift completion rates and only TAFE has the nationwide and regional presence to train educators where they are most needed.
It is not only the early childhood education and care sector that would benefit, childcare workers are a lynchpin of Australia’s economy. As the pandemic has proven, without access to childcare, participation for parents in the workforce is stymied. A strong early childhood education and care sector supports Australians in work and boosts productivity. Indeed, unlocking the productivity gains that come from increasing women’s workforce participation would increase Australia’s GDP by $60 billion over the next twenty years according to KPMG.
Restoring funding to TAFE will create a triple dividend for Australia: a skilled and capable workforce to address current and future regional shortages, increased workforce participation to boost the economy and improved early learning outcomes for Australian children.
“To continue providing students with high-quality learning opportunities that give them the necessary theoretical and practical skills, it is vital that TAFE is properly funded by all governments," says Ingram. “Governments must also recognise the pivotal role of Early Childhood Education as a vital influence on a child’s formative years. Such recognition must influence and shape future policies that grow a skilled Early Childhood Educator workforce, with sufficient educators to meet the demand.”
Even before COVID upended the lives of young people, they were already having to face the disruptions of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) with its changes to the way we work, live and study. Advances in technology and increased automation were making it more difficult for young people to find entry level positions in an already highly competitive job market. It’s hardly surprising that the youth unemployment rate was already twice the national unemployment average pre-COVID. Then with the lockdowns hitting the biggest employers of young people hardest – the hospitality and retail industries – more young people lost their jobs and life became even more uncertain.
So it’s surprising to hear the Government spruiking a national unemployment rate that is falling, but don’t be fooled, it’s not due to signs that job market prospects are looking up. Alison Pennington of the Centre for Future Work has pulled together the unemployment rate and, importantly the underemployment rate, to reveal the underutilization rate. It shows a fifth of the population - 20 per cent - are not working as much as they would like. Young people particularly are taking up casual work and working fewer hours, meaning they don’t get counted in the official statistics as unemployed. Some have reportedly even given up looking for work all together. As Alison puts it in a media interview: “The official unemployment rate is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath that iceberg is a great chasm of people falling behind in the labour market that's failing to put them into jobs”.
Listening to the Morrison Government you would think the answer to youth unemployment is simple: Young people should make an investment in themselves and undertake a short course in a new skill area. Preferably one that helps plug the gaping skills shortages that have become progressively wider over the last eight years of Liberal governments.
The money that is being shovelled into short courses is astonishing, as if it is the panacea to full employment. But as Professor John Buchan highlighted at the recent 2021 NCVER VET Conference, while everyone is talking of skills shortages and VET reform, the issue of job scarcity remains ignored. We need to be focusing on the real issue of how safe, secure and well-paid jobs for young people will be created.
Yet, in times of high unemployment, it is easy for governments and employers to push the issue back onto workers by selling them the idea they need to get ‘rackable and stackable’ credentials to prove their skills. But, this is doing young people a disservice. These shorter qualifications limit education to the teaching of narrowly defined skill sets. They deny people the broader education they gain from a longer qualification to enable them to deal with the complexities of the modern workplace and become better prepared for their future.
Last month I visited the TAFE SA Giles Plain campus to meet with some of the teachers and students in the Early Education and Care program. I spoke to the students about why they chose a longer TAFE qualification and, not surprisingly, their response was the opportunity to get a well-rounded, high quality education. They valued the learning experience, support services and chance to become part of a community as much as the qualification. They also felt their TAFE course was highly respected in the ECE community. Unfortunately, the SA Government has decided to privatise these courses in Adelaide which means TAFE will no longer provide these courses from next year. These students can no longer undertake a diploma at TAFE after their Certificate III. As one student, Yang Gao studying for her Certificate III, summed up; “Education is not a business. We need qualified and professional educators, who have studied at TAFE” I couldn’t agree more.
On National TAFE day, AEU delegations lobbied MPs to ensure that they understand that TAFE should not be relegated to just another business in a competitive market, but elevated out of the market and respected as the anchor vocational education institution, system or provider, attracting the best of industry to educate future generations and help them prepare and re-imagine their futures.
TAFE must be viewed as repositories of expertise. A vocation takes years of dedicated practice to master and the act of passing down a rich history of knowledge and skills to the next generation should be better appreciated by all governments. TAFE institutes should be cherished as places where communities of practice can flourish and deep knowledge can be developed with a personal touch, rather than tying funding to outcomes or churning out short courses.
The infrastructure is already there, TAFE already has the teaching staff prepared to go the extra mile and the wrap-around services to give personal support to students, get to know them, advocate for them, and assist them on their lifelong, life-wide education journey.
New research by Monash University ‘Life, Disrupted: Young people education and employment before and after COVID-19’ backs up the power of this approach, concluding: “It is our contention that the job of educators is not just about developing in individuals the skills to navigate uncertainty, but to work with our students to imagine and create the conditions for a better, more secure life.”
While the Federal Government continues to push the message that all you need is a quick credential, it’s interesting to look overseas and see that post-secondary colleges like Lambton College in Canada are already pivoting skills training to look beyond Industry 4.0 and take a new direction.
They are questioning the place of machines in society and prioritising humanisation and inclusivity. As a public college they are committed to creating a fairer society by embedding Indigenous knowledge across their curriculum to prepare students for an interdependent world. They are calling this approach Industry 5.0, and supporting their students to redefine the future.
Australia should also be taking this opportunity to redefine our future. We know that society works best when it maximises the potential of all its citizens and there is opportunity for all, so equity should be our top priority as a society. We can make this an equitable and youth based recovery post COVID. It’s just a matter of political will. TAFE is ready to meet this challenge but needs funding and the backing of all governments to do so.
It’s time for a new social contract. One that puts the emphasis on government to provide the conditions for the safe and secure, well-paid jobs of the future. Governments need to leverage fiscal policy to support employment growth and, rather than meddling in VET reform, invest in TAFE to give students a high-quality education and a chance to determine their future.
11 August 2021
Critical industries like childcare, ICT, carpentry and plumbing are at risk of significant workforce shortages, which would undermine the strength of Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery according to the Australian Education Union.
Investment in TAFE would help ensure a sustainable supply of highly trained workers and support people to gain the skills they require to get good jobs, Australian Education Union Deputy Federal President Meredith Peace said.
“TAFE has suffered over $3 billion in Federal Government funding cuts since 2013. Instead of adequate TAFE investment, the Federal Coalition has used taxpayers’ funds for poor quality private training colleges and the failing job network.
“TAFE is the centre of our vocational education system. Public TAFE institutions are ideally placed to train the workforces our nation needs to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Federal Government’s Skills Priority List shows 153 professions with current workforce shortages and projects an additional 144 will experience moderate to strong levels of future demand by 2025.
Analysis of Federal Government’s Labour Market Information Portal shows a shortage of more than 207,600 workers in the next five years in critical industries including childcare, aged and disability care, hospitality, carpentry, plumbing, and ICT.
“In order to ensure these industries have the highly trained workforce they require to function effectively, Australia requires a properly funded TAFE system,” Ms Peace said.
“Today, on National TAFE Day, the AEU is inviting the community to support our Rebuild with TAFE campaign and sign an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a guaranteed minimum of 70 per cent of total government funding for the public TAFE system.
“Without proper investment in TAFE, the Federal Government will fail to provide the education and training workers need to get real jobs. They will also fail to ensure critical industries have the highly skilled workforces they need to deliver the services we all rely on.
Media contact: Alys Gagnon, 0438 379 977, [email protected]
Jobs with shortages and strong future demand
The current Skills Priority List includes 153 professions with current shortages, 57 of these will also have strong future demand and another 87 are classified as having moderate future demand to 2025.
Among occupations with strong future demand in the five years from November 2020 to November 2025 according to projections in the Federal Governments Labour Market Information Portal are:
All these jobs are at qualification levels that TAFE delivers - skill level 4 (cert II or III) to skill level 2 (Diploma or Advanced Diploma).
Every year, National TAFE Day provides the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the public TAFE system as a highly regarded educational institution which has supported and provided opportunities for individuals, communities and employers for decades.
It’s also a time to demand the politicians properly fund and support TAFE.
Due to COVID-19 activities this year will primarily be online. See some of our suggested actions are below and more actions will be added on 11 August.
With hundreds of campuses all around the country, TAFE provides high quality vocational education for all and is perfectly positioned to help Australia rebuild, but it urgently needs guaranteed funding to do so. The Morrison government is failing to ensure TAFE has the funding needed. Add your name to our letter to the Prime Minister here.
The lack of support for TAFE impacted deeply even before the COVID crisis, because TAFE needs funding to provide skills, jobs, purpose and opportunities to millions of Australians and to keep our economy strong.
Now more than ever we need to invest in a positive future for all of us.
That’s why we need you to take action to #RebuildWithTAFE and tell all federal politicians to guarantee TAFE funding for a positive future.
There are a number of things you can do to take action as part of this important day.
Before National TAFE day
On National TAFE Day
The Australian Education Union (AEU) is calling on governments across the country to make TAFE their first priority as Australia looks to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle the country’s skills crisis.
The AEU launched the ‘Rebuild with TAFE’ campaign in Canberra today and used the launch to call on governments to properly fund TAFE and maximise the system’s potential to assist with the economic re-build, re-skill and upskill workers, address the apprentice shortage, reduce youth unemployment and provide career pathways for all Australians.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the TAFE system is a hugely valuable asset that is being neglected by the Federal Government and many state governments.
“We’re launching the Rebuild with TAFE campaign because we’re sick of governments and politicians putting TAFE last and letting a critical part of Australia’s economy and education sector waste away.”
TAFE has seen its funding cut by $3 billion since 2013 and is also suffering from the Federal Government’s privatisation agenda which has driven people away from TAFE and increased the amount of low-quality private training providers.
“All over Australia TAFE institutes are struggling with the impact of these funding cuts and poor policy decisions resulting in the loss of jobs and the cutting of courses. This is disastrous for the communities they support and must be addressed urgently.”
Australia is facing many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and as the public provider of vocational education TAFE is best placed to address those challenges if it is properly funded and supported.
“Australia currently has a shortage of 200,000 apprentices while at the same time we also have plenty of Australians who are out of work. Rebuilding with TAFE will help our unemployed to re-train, upskill or get an apprenticeship and gain meaningful employment.
“The National Cabinet itself has determined that skills is one of the six key priorities for the government, yet the Federal Government won’t properly fund the public provider of vocational education. That doesn’t make any sense.”
TAFE is responsible for $92.5 billion per year in annual economic benefit to Australia, 16 times more than the annual cost to maintain the provider, but these longstanding and ongoing benefits would be permanently lost if governments fail to rebuild with TAFE.
A 2020 national survey found that 94 per cent of Australians want to see more federal funding for TAFE and research has consistently found that Australians see TAFE as a vital part of Australia’s education sector that can provide career, social and economic opportunities for people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Proper funding for TAFE will increase available courses, increase the number of campuses, and ensure high quality vocational education that will improve the lives of millions of Australians.
“Australians trust and support TAFE and know the system can help re-build our economy, but we need our governments and politicians to show that same support by investing in TAFE to rebuild Australia socially and economically.
“TAFE touches so many aspects of our society and economy from the arts and fashion, to construction, health and early childhood education, to opportunities for young people in rural and regional areas, and we cannot afford to lose it.
“As we head to the next federal election, all political parties must commit to rebuilding with TAFE and we’ll be campaigning to make sure they understand how important this issue is to our communities.”
A Fifty Acres-Pollinate Survey among a nationally representative sample of 1001 Australians aged 18+ has found that almost all Australians feel it’s important that federal funding to TAFE is increased in order to help recovery from the recession.
94% of those surveyed said it was important that federal government increase funding to TAFE for the post-recession rebuild and recovery, with 45% saying it was “very important”. Just 2% said it was not important.
Quotes attributable to Meredith Peace, Federal Deputy President of the Australian Education Union:
“This survey vindicates our call for the Federal Government to abandon the market model of vocational education and immediately increase TAFE funding.”
“The people of Australia trust and respect TAFE and it is time for the Scott Morrison government to show the same trust and respect by providing TAFE the funding it needs.”
“TAFE is perfectly positioned to be a critical institution in the post-COVID-19 rebuild and recovery of Australia – the public recognises this, so why doesn’t Scott Morrison?”
“We’ve just had a federal budget that was silent on TAFE and provided absolutely no new funding. Why is the Morrison government so ideologically opposed to doing what almost all Australian’s see as common sense – boost funding to TAFE for the sake of Australia’s recovery?”
How important is it that the federal government increase funding to TAFE for the post-recession rebuild and recovery? (%)
MEDIA CONTACT: MEREDITH PEACE, 0425 743 961
About Fifty Acres-Pollinate Poll
The Fifty Acres-Pollinate Poll is a resource for serious journalism and not-for-profit advocacy in Australia - leading media outlets and NFPs are invited to submit questions and gratis that will form part of the fortnightly polls. The partnership between Canberra’s leading engagement agency Fifty Acres and strategic research consultancy, Pollinate, is a new entrant in the Australian polling landscape in 2020 and takes a very different approach to ascertain how Australians think and feel about a range of issues.
The poll is an online survey conducted amongst 1,000 Australians aged 18+. The poll sample is nationally representative with quotas based on 2016 ABS statistics on key demographics including age, gender & region.