TAFE students rallied at the Wentworth Falls campus on Friday to protest against planned funding cuts.
The group is concerned that major changes to be introduced next year will mean some courses will be axed and fees will rise.
Greens MP John Kaye joined the students in opposing budget cuts and the new “Smart and Skilled” training program due to start in 2015.
Dr Kaye said under the new scheme, “TAFE will be stripped of the lion’s share of its core funding. Instead, the money will be given to students as an entitlement voucher to cash in with the provider of their choice.”
It will put TAFE into direct competition with private training providers and government subsidies will be limited to courses in priority industry areas.
President of the students association at Wentworth Falls, Rod Wilson, said the “Smart and Skilled” scheme had students “very worried”, particularly those who were on concession rates (meaning they receive some Commonwealth benefit), with lower fees.
“About 60 per cent of our students are on concession rates,” he said. “The proposed rates will increase the cost of a diploma from $100 to $500. It really prices them out of good qualifications.”
Dr Kaye said youth unemployment in the Mountains was running at 12.7 per cent and TAFE provided the opportunity for those young people to transform their lives.
“The Western Sydney Institute provides second chance educational opportunities for learners who have missed out at school, people with disabilities, Aboriginal students and the socially disadvantaged. Trades courses turn unemployed young people into skilled workers.”
“Despite the benefits that TAFE provides to the Blue Mountains, both Labor and Coalition governments have cut the public skills trainer’s budget and forced it into competition against low quality private providers,” he said.
Dr Kaye said the Greens will introduce a Save TAFE bill into Parliament next month, aimed at reversing the budget cuts, stopping rising fees and job losses and freezing the “Smart and Skilled” scheme.
“We want to give the O’Farrell government time to think again and do what is right for the people of Western Sydney,” he said. “Premier Barry O’Farrell appointed himself the Minister for Western Sydney. If he really cares about the social and economic future of this region, he would end his government’s war on TAFE and support the Greens Save TAFE bill when it is debated in Parliament next month.”
An online petition has been set up on www.stoptafecuts.com.au. The website also advises how submissions can be made to a Senate inquiry into TAFE.