Fears dozens more TAFE courses face axe amid ‘strategy of secrecy’

There are fears another 39 TAFE SA courses are on the chopping block, with calls for the Premier to release a full list of courses to be axed this year.

May 10, 2021, updated May 10, 2021
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Australian Education Union is accusing the State Government of a “deliberate strategy of secrecy”, with rumours rife that dozens more courses are set to be cut in areas including retail, dental health, performing arts, photography, rural operations, project management, counselling and work, health and safety.

TAFE SA last year announced that 20 courses would be scrapped from metro campuses this year, after InDaily revealed concerns from the Australian Education Union (AEU) that many courses were at risk.

AEU state president Lara Golding this morning told InDaily there were now internal reports that at least 39 more courses were set to go, leaving staff and students “confused and anxious”.

“Staff are being told in corridors and informal meetings that their courses will no longer be running next semester, but as yet no public announcement has been made,” Golding said.

“It seems that the Marshall Government is deliberately trying to keep their plans secret.”

In a letter sent to Premier Steven Marshall this morning, seen by InDaily, Golding asked him for full disclosure.

“On behalf of TAFE educators and students, we ask for a comprehensive list of courses which will no longer be offered by TAFE SA from Semester 2, 2021 and the reasons for any course cuts,” Golding wrote.

“There have been no public announcements about these course cuts.

“Instead, lecturers are being informed in corridors, via informal emails and in meetings with low-level management.

“This appears to be a deliberate strategy of secrecy and is resulting in high levels of uncertainty and anxiety for students and staff.

“It is unclear whether these course cuts are decisions of TAFE SA or the Department for Innovation and Skills.”

Golding called on the Premier to be “transparent and honest” and “to explain your long term plans for our trusted public provider of vocational education”.

“We urge you to act in the interests of all South Australians, not just private training businesses, by stopping the cuts to TAFE and instead guaranteeing 70 per cent public funding for vocational education to TAFE,” she wrote.

Golding stated that union members and the community were strongly opposed to cuts to TAFE SA “and the impact of privatising vocational education”.

“At this critical time for the state’s economy we call on you to rebuild with TAFE,” she wrote.

Golding told Marshall that the AEU SA Branch Council “condemns and deplores” his government for forcing TAFE to stop delivering “successful and in-demand courses”, allowing private training providers to use TAFE facilities and assets and “freely giving away TAFE teaching resources which have been developed using taxpayers funds to private training businesses to make a profit”.

Among the cuts announced last year were all subsidised childcare, aged care and disability courses from TAFE SA’s metro campuses, forcing students to study with private training providers.

Trainees and apprentices would still be able to access some of the courses but there would be no places going forward for students.

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At the time, TAFE SA said the courses would still be offered in regional areas and students currently enrolled at metro campuses would be able to complete their studies.

In revealing the courses to be axed, TAFE SA also announced 21 “new” course offerings, in areas including water industry operations, mining exploration, civil construction, laser hair reduction, Auslan and animal technology.

However, the union claimed only a handful would actually be new – the rest, it said, were updated versions of existing courses, which was a mandated requirement.

Golding said today “the State Government keeps talking about creating jobs, but Steven Marshall is slashing the training courses people need to fill the jobs of the future”.

“The State Government’s moves to privatise TAFE training will cost the community for generations to come,” she said.

In a statement, TAFE SA chief executive David Coltman said “if there are any changes to course delivery, this will be implemented in consultation with our staff and the AEU”.

“TAFE SA course delivery is aligned to the needs of the state’s current and future workforce,” he said.

“Changes in national training packages, changes to the subsidised training list, industry and student demand all impact on which courses are offered at TAFE SA.  These adjustments are business as usual activity.

“Our open and transparent review process is a requirement of the Enterprise Agreement and one which will always be honoured. The AEU is a key part of these review processes.”

Coltman said TAFE SA was “still planning to offer courses in retail, dental, performing arts, project management and work health and safety in semester 2, 2021”.

“Having the ability to adjust course delivery to meet industry and employer demand ensures students are receiving the education and training for the jobs of today and the future,” he said.

InDaily has also sought a response from Premier Steven Marshall, Education Minister John Gardner and Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni.

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