HECS-style scheme to be considered for TAFE
Paying off a HECS-style loan to go to TAFE will be considered by the state government as it plans an overhaul of the sector, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian declaring NSW must "get our act together" on training future tradies.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Premier has appointed education expert David Gonski and former top Howard government public servant Peter Shergold to conduct a major review into the TAFE sector, so NSW can have a world class training system with a fresh focus on direct industry links and hi-tech jobs.
"If we're serious about having the best skilled workforce - tradies, not just in the traditional mould but the tradie of the future which will be part tradie/part engineer - we really need to get our act together," Ms Berejiklian said.
"If we're serious about having advanced manufacturing in our future and creating the best tradies, we have to do things a bit differently."
Asked directly if the review, which will report mid-year, would lay the groundwork for privatising TAFEs, Ms Berejiklian said she would "not pre-empt anything".
"This is about creating the best system possible. I will take advice from two education experts … if people support workers, if people support tradies they should embrace these reforms wholeheartedly," she said.
In improving the training system, Ms Berejiklian hopes to destroy the stereotype that TAFE is a second-best option to university.
She said NSW must be training people for high tech jobs such as robotics, 3D printing and advanced manufacturing and targeting skills shortages in the economy.
Ms Berejiklian said a HECS-style payment system could be one way of creating better options for trainees, and would be considered in the review.
"It was Hawke/Keating who brought in federal HECS and it improved standards," she said. "So we are asking do we need to look at a system like that at TAFE level?
"We know it works. You don't pay a dollar until you get a good job, it's about valuing courses and making sure they are relevant."
The Premier pointed out that the state was already providing funding for 100,000 fee-free apprenticeships announced at the state election and also supported scholarships, but she said there was a view that replacing upfront fees with a HECS debt could be beneficial.
Ms Berejiklian said she also hoped to see closer integration between TAFE, secondary schooling and universities.
She specifically stated a key goal of the review was to involve industry more directly in course development and training.
"My concern is that we need to make sure there's more industry involvement which provides skills for jobs not even around yet," she said.
TAFE NSW is the largest VET provider in the country, with a budget of $1.85 billion. It offers hundreds of courses from certificate to degree level to over 500,000 students.