Blue Mountains State Labor candidate Trish Doyle says NSW is in the middle of a youth unemployment crisis and proposed increases to TAFE fees will only make matters worse.
Last week NSW Opposition leader John Robertson said Labor would introduce a Bill to cap fee increases for government subsidised TAFE courses at CPI to "gold plate" the TAFE system.
He told Parliament many students would be "priced out of vocational education and training [with] 40 per cent of students expected to pay between $500 and $1500 extra for courses" adding the "massive fee hikes were the worst possible move in the middle of the current youth unemployment crisis".
Figures show youth unemployment is at 11.7% in the Blue Mountains and Outer West region, according to Brotherhood of St Laurence analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force data, which is an 18 per cent increase between February 2012 and February this year, Labor sources said.
"Studies are telling us we have a problem with youth unemployment but Federal and State Governments demand us to earn or learn," Ms Doyle said.
"The State Government is denying opportunities to young people by the huge increase in TAFE fees," she added.
Ms Doyle said she was regularly approached by members of the community concerned by TAFE fee hikes. She was standing on a campaign platform about "making TAFE and education affordable and accessible" and was "hopeful" the Bill would make it swiftly through Parliament.
"I've been talking to a lot of people who are trying to access TAFE education, some facing a ten-fold increase that would lock them out."
The Teachers Federation representative for the TAFE Teacher's Association at Blue Mountain' College of TAFE, Joy Connor, said her group "thoroughly supports" the proposed Bill.
"Our general concerns about the fee rises at TAFE next year are that they will lock many in the Mountains out of training, saddle others with a continuing rising debt and threaten the survival of TAFE NSW as a system which provides skilled workers for our local business.
"Higher fees will not increase the number of skilled people in the community. They will contribute to unemployment and a growing number of disaffected young people roaming the streets.
"It is a strange situation when young people are told they must earn or learn and the cost of learning is put out of their reach."
The new fees for 2015 were published on a state government website in January and show significant increases in most courses. Some of the popular courses studied at Wentworth Falls and/or Katoomba campuses include outdoor recreation, tourism, beauty services and commercial cookery. These will all rise from $838 this year to $2110 next year.
Others set to increase include certificate III courses in hospitality (from $838 to $1440), horticulture ($838 to $2170) and information technology ($1140 to $1960).
State member for the Blue Mountains, Roza Sage, told the Gazette she was concerned about youth unemployment but the government had a "clear plan to match training" with industry needs. She said it was "disingenuous for Labor to question our commitment to employment ... when the Liberals and Nationals Government was elected, Labor had left NSW with the slowest jobs growth of any state over the previous decade".
"We now have the second highest number of job creations in the country since April 2011, with more than 126,000 new jobs created."
Funding for vocational education and training had increased by 11 per cent, she said.