Tuesday, 13th June 2017, was National TAFE Day, a time to celebrate TAFE achievements and reflect on the importance of our public TAFE training system. In Gilmore, this means celebrating our local TAFE campuses at Nowra, Ulladulla, Moruya and Access Centre at Batemans Bay. I am immensely glad that a Shorten Labor Government has already committed to guarantee that every two out of three dollars raised in vocational education funding will go to public TAFE. The Liberal Government needs to also guarantee public TAFE funding and they need to stop their TAFE privatisation agenda. We are already at the stage nationally where TAFE is almost a minority provider (50.3%). Nationally more than 10,000 TAFE teachers have lost their jobs, many in our local areas.1 This has to change. TAFE is too good to lose. In the 1950’s my mum studied Dressmaking and Millinery at Nowra TAFE. My husband completed his Carpentry and Joinery Trade Certificate at the same local TAFE. My son also studied automotive at TAFE while at high school. My mum, and the jobs she was restricted from doing, particularly as a female, instilled in me the importance of a good public education. As a 17 year old, I never wanted to be a teacher. As a teenager I was warned off politics by my dad, a dairy farmer – all politicians should have life experience he said. I went on to study Economics at university. Ironically, it was the people side of economics and community that eventually lured me to teaching. Over the last ten plus years I am indebted for the lessons that my students have taught me: the struggles that people face every day; the longing for a job; changing life and employment circumstances. There is always hope for a brighter future, and TAFE provides that regardless of a person’s background. The South Coast and Far South Coast of NSW is a scenically beautiful area, the most visited area in NSW outside of Sydney. “Dare to stay a little longer” though and discover a silent ugly truth, the Shoalhaven is now home to the highest youth unemployment in NSW and the third highest youth unemployment in Australia (23.7%)2 . But it’s our falling Workforce Participation Rate in the Shoalhaven, now just 45.2%3 , the lowest Workforce Participation Rate in Australia, well below the national average (64.8%)4 and OECD average (60.2%)5 that is a concern. That’s why when pre-apprenticeships were axed from my local TAFE6 , meaning young people have to drive up to three hours each way to attend TAFE without public transport; when courses are axed; when TAFE fees skyrocket; when TAFE courses are privatised; that as Labor’s Candidate for Gilmore and as a mum of four teenagers, I will stand against these cuts. The Shoalhaven has seen a 21 per cent decline in apprenticeships between 2013 and 20167 while youth unemployment has soared to 23.7%8 . This has occurred while Construction in Gilmore is a growth industry. In the Shoalhaven alone, one thousand Construction jobs will be created between 2015-2020 9. There are serious questions to answer then, why apprentice Plumbers from the southern part of Gilmore, must drive three hours each way to TAFE. We need a Shorten Labor Government which will invest back into TAFE; a government that sees people as an investment not a cost; a government that will genuinely back supporting training and apprenticeships in regional areas like ours. As Labor’s Candidate for Gilmore, I stand with our community and Labor to back our public TAFE. Training, skills, and jobs must be our priority. Labor has already taken the step to guarantee public TAFE funding; to reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s $600 million TAFE cuts announced in the 2017 Budget. It’s why in Bill Shorten’s 2017 Budget Reply speech, Bill announced Labor will create a new $100 million “Building TAFE for the Future Fund” – and this building work will begin where it’s needed most, in areas of high youth unemployment. Labor has already committed to one in 10 people employed on major government projects must be an Australian apprentice. It’s why on National TAFE Day, that I am thankful for our local public TAFE, teachers, staff and students – that’s worth protecting for everyone’s future. This opinion piece was first published at www.fionaphillips.com.au on Monday 12th June 2017.
Above: FIONA PHILLIPS LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GILMORE 2017 NATIONAL TAFE DAY References 1 Australian Education Union, 2017, “National TAFE Day – June 13 – Guarantee funding to TAFE!”, 1st June 2017, http://aeu.unionsystems.com.au/newsmedia/news/national-tafe-day-june-13-guarantee-funding-tafe Accessed 11th June 2017. 2 Department of Employment, Australian Government, 2017, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Regions SA4 Data – Shoalhaven, Youth Unemployment Rate http://lmip.gov.au/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 3 Department of Employment, Australian Government, 2017, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Regions SA4 Data – Shoalhaven, Workforce Participation Rate http://lmip.gov.au/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 4 Department of Employment, Australian Government, 2017, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Regions SA4 Data – National, Workforce Participation Rate http://lmip.gov.au/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 5 Abhayaratna, J, and Lattimore, R, 2006, “Workforce Participation Rates – How Does Australia Compare?”, Australian Government, Productivity Commission, http://www.pc.gov.au/research/supporting/workforceparticipation/workforceparticipation.pdf Accessed 11th June 2017. 6 Long, J, 2015, “Dad takes up TAFE fight for his son”, South Coast Register, 15th February 2015, http://www.southcoastregister.com.au/story/2884249/dad-takes-up-tafefight-for-his-son/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 7 National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2016, Australian vocational education and training statistics: apprentices and trainees 2016 – March quarter, https://www.ncver.edu.au/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 8 Department of Employment, Australian Government, 2017, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Regions SA4 Data – Shoalhaven, Youth Unemployment Rate http://lmip.gov.au/ Accessed 11th June 2017. 9 Department of Employment, Australian Government, 2017, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Projections, 2016 Employment Projections, Regional Projections, http://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/GainInsights/EmploymentProjections Accessed 11th June 2017.