In the last week there have been claims and counter claims from Labor and Liberal representatives regarding the funding of TAFE in the Gilmore electorate. Labor Candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, via her media release, called for the urgent restoration of TAFE funding as 2016 census figures reveal a dramatic decline in the number of TAFE and other vocational education students in Gilmore. Ms Phillips stated in her release: "At the time of the last census in 2011 there were 3,134 students receiving vocational training in Gilmore, now according to the 2016 Census there are only 2,438. This represents a decline of 22 per cent, which is over double the national average decline of 10 per cent. "The Ulladulla Region and Berry/Kangaroo Valley are the hardest hit with a 41 per cent decline; Moruya with a 31 per cent decline; North Nowra-Bomaderry with a 28 per cent decline, and the Kiama local government area with a 21 per cent decline. . Member for Gilmore, Anne Sudmalis, has responded today with her own media release. "The latest TAFE announcement from Labor is more of the same deceit and hypocrisy; their record on Vocational Education and Apprenticeships is atrocious. TAFE has always been funded by State Governments, not the Commonwealth. When last in Government at federal level, Labor provided no specific funding for TAFE." "Labor’s own Fiscal Plan released at the last election showed “Zero” dollars in new funding for TAFE over the next four years." "The previous Labor Government forced TAFE into stronger competition for funding with private vocational training providers that resulted in TAFE’s share of VET students falling from 60% to 49%. In their last year in office from June 2012 to June 2013, while Bill Shorten was Employment Minister, Australia suffered its biggest ever annual decline in apprentice numbers, falling by 110,000. "The Coalition Government provides $1.5 billion a year to states and territories to support vocational education and training, and has introduced strong programs for job creating and education. Of concern are the 2016 census figures quoted by Ms Phillips that clearly point to a decline in TAFE attendences, irrespective of who funded what. "There are now 696 less people in Gilmore studying at TAFE or at the Vocational education level in 2016 than in 2011, and 501 less in the Shoalhaven. It’s easy to now see the link between the high youth unemployment in the Shoalhaven of 25.4%, the second highest youth unemployment in Australia, and the 23 per cent decline in vocational education and training in the Shoalhaven, under the Liberal Government and their TAFE privatisation agenda." offers Ms Phillps "And the situation is set to deteriorate further. "The Liberals cut a further $600 million from TAFE in the May budget, despite an increasing number of jobs requiring vocational skills. However Ms Sudmalis stated in her media release today: "In addition the Coalition Government announced a $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund in the May Budget with TAFE expected to have an important role in training many of the extra 300,000 apprentices it creates. TAFE Directors Australia has welcomed the Skilling Australians Fund as being “good for TAFE. Of interest is the latest newsletter from TAFE Directors Australia where they report: TAFE numbers bounce back in latest statistics The number of students in government-funding training at TAFE grew by 15% during 2016, while numbers at all other providers declined, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). It's publication, Government-funded students and courses 2016, shows that there were 1.3 million students enrolled in government-funded VET in 2016, an increase of 3.3% over 2015. While TAFE enrollments grew strongly, numbers at private providers fell by 7.1% and at community providers by 7.6%. NSW saw the biggest increase in student numbers - up by 38%, while there were falls in South Australia (17.9%) and Victoria (13.5%).