TAFE institutions have suffered funding cuts for years. Photo by Paul Gregoire

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The sweeping changes to the higher education sector outlined in the federal budget earlier this month will see a continuation of the cuts that TAFE institutions have already suffered across the state for years.

Ultimo TAFE tourism student Sam Koh believes that the decision to slash $1.5 billion from the vocational education and training (VET) sector is just the latest in a long line of funding cuts to the sector.

“Back in 2011 and 2012, they [had] already started to implement a lot of funding cuts. It’s not good for anyone,” Mr Koh said.

“They’re literally cutting away all the resources, not only pushing students into things like HECS, but also cutting down on teachers too. [Students] all say they’ve been discouraged to study at TAFE and they’re all trying to look for a different option.”

Mr Koh argues that as TAFE institutions assist people in gaining employment or moving on to university, cutting funding to the VET sector will make it harder for students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, to pursue higher education or even skilled employment.

Federal TAFE secretary of the Australian Education Union Pat Forward agrees. She believes that the federal budget will have a significantly negative impact on TAFE, especially for students.

“There have been at least $1.5 billion worth of funding cuts in the VET sector, with indications that there will be further changes to funding over the next 12 months,” Ms Forward told City Hub.

“States and territories are continuing the cuts to their TAFE budgets … when combined with the cuts in the federal budget, [they] will continue to damage TAFE.”

Apprentices have also been hit hard, explained Ms Forward, as the state government has cut the Tools For Your Trade program, which provided apprentices with up to $5000 to cover initial expenses.

“[Tools For Your Trade] will cease on July 1. It has been replaced with the Trade Support Loans Programme [which] is a HECS-style loans scheme,” she said.

Ms Forward also pointed out that 10 programs, worth $1 billion in total, designed to provide basic literacy and numeracy skills for the workplace, have also been cut.