The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute has developed a paper on the economic and social benefits of the TAFE system.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) has also conducted a survey that explores the state of TAFEs through the eyes of teachers.
The value of the TAFE system
This latest work by the Centre for Future Work is not the first that seeks to put a value on what the TAFE sector does, and their report can be accessed here. Earlier reports focused on Victoria and Queensland have been highlighted in past articles in VDC News.
This latest report draws on a wide range of evidence from a variety of sources to suggest a range of benefits, including its economic footprint, the increased earnings and productivity for Australia’s labour force, stronger employment outcomes and reduced fiscal outlays by increasing employability and “thereby lowering unemployment and supporting a healthier workforce and society.” They maintain a post-COVID world will make a significant call on TAFE, but this will be made all the harder, they say, by a “profound and multidimensional crisis from policy failures and fiscal mismanagement [of the VET sector] during previous years.”
The combined benefits, they estimate, are $92.5 billion – “traced back to the extra employability, productivity and incomes (and associated savings on social benefit costs) demonstrated by the TAFE-educated workforce” as well as a range of broader social benefits. These include promoting stronger economic and labour market outcomes in regional areas and helping ‘bridge the gaps’ and provide access “to further education and jobs pathways for special and at-risk groups of young Australians.”
They estimate that “72.5% of Australian workers currently holding VET qualifications received their training through the TAFE system,” and that these benefits are obtained “at modest cost.” In addition, they report that:
“Our findings suggest there is strong economic rationale for strengthening and expanding VET access for young, at-risk groups, and for all workers who lack post-school qualifications.”
Finally, they feel that:
“Australia will squander the demonstrated and ongoing economic benefits generated by our investments in TAFE institutes, and unduly limit our post-COVID reconstruction opportunities, if we do not act quickly to reinstate the funding and critical role that TAFE plays in the VET system.”
What did the AEU’s survey find?
We’ve accessed two surveys, a small Victorian one with 495 respondents conducted in 2017 (access that one here) and another in 2020. The latter and more extensive survey with 1438 respondents was reported on pages 14 to 17 in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Australian TAFE Teacher.
In this most recent survey staff 72% of respondents say that their working hours have increased over the last three years and 93% said that the pace or intensity of their work has increased over the same period. Staff were also aware that their TAFE had stopped offering particular courses and that, while 81% said that their budgets had decreased, nearly half felt that class sizes had increased. When asked if they had considered leaving the sector, many said they had, and the major reasons for this were workload and excessive hours, arduous compliance requirements, increased administrative load and management’s approach to and support for staff, which they felt to be inadequate.
June 2020 saw the release of the Victorian Auditor General’s 2019 audits of Victoria’s TAFE institutes. The Auditor General said that:
“TAFEs need to efficiently manage their resources to respond to future changes and foreseeable risks. TAFEs should achieve this without compromising the quality of their services.”
Nothing is easy in our sector at present though.