The Gillard government must ensure that the failures in the Victorian experience of privatising vocational education and training (VET) are not repeated in other states, said Green Senator and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon, following reports today of a $500 million training budget blowout in Victoria (AFR, 2/7/12, Gillard's training reform hit by budget blowout).
"The Gillard government has been in the driving seat of the push to privatise vocational education and cannot now wash their hands of the problems in the Victorian sector", said Senator Rhiannon.
"The Labor government has given billions of dollars in VET funding to the states since 2008 and Federal skills Minister Chris Evans should place conditions on that funding to ensure there is a strong public VET system that provides comprehensive skills training to underpin secure quality jobs growth.
"Federal skills Minister Chris Evans oversaw a COAG agreement in March that will usher in voucher-based funding throughout Australia. NSW and Queensland are expected to announce their system shortly and the SA system began operating this week.
"Minister Evans says it is up to each state to structure their system but the federal government should learn the lessons from Victoria and undertake a rigorous assessment of the flaws of contestability rather than continue blindly with ineffective reform.
"The Victorian move in 2009 to more contestable vocational education has not delivered the qualifications needed in skills shortage areas.
"Instead there has been a blossoming of heavily marketed, high-volume, low-cost short courses delivered by private providers often in areas where there is no skills shortage.
"In the three years to 2011, Victorian TAFE colleges' market share for delivery of VET course dropped from 75 to 48.8 percent. At the same time, the market share of private providers rose from 14 to 40 per cent.
"Minister Evans cannot continue to blindly push VET reform and ignore the failures in the Victorian experience.
"The Greens are calling for increased federal funding for VET and a guarantee that TAFEs will be prioritised to ensure all Australian students have access to well-resourced high quality vocational education", said Senator Rhiannon.