Oct 1, 2004

Liberal Senators expose Howard’s technical colleges as a gimmick


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 1 October 2004

Even Liberal Party Senators think Mr Howard’s Technical Colleges are expensive gimmicks that will simply duplicate what is already successfully occurring within our school system.

To find this view you need look no further than the minority report written by Liberal Party Senators as part of the Senate’s 2003 Skills Inquiry.

When announcing his 24 new federally funded but privately run Technical Colleges, Mr Howard claimed they would “revolutionise vocational education and training” by offering “both academic and vocational education to students while completing their school studies”.

This claim just highlights Mr Howard ignorance of what is already occurring within our secondary schools. Last year alone, 202,900 senior high school students, or 1 in 2, participated in VET in Schools – a program which allows students to learn a trade while still at high school.

In fact, Liberal Senators in their response to the Senate’s Skills Inquiry concluded:

“VET in Schools … is already active in promoting partnerships between the three education sectors, industry and the local community. There is, in any event, limitations on the Commonwealth in facilitating and promoting these partnership which are best handled at state level.”

Source: Government Senators’ Report, p 216

So what has changed since the tabling of the Senate Report last November?

Simple. In the dying days of the current election campaign Mr Howard is desperate to look like he has a solution to the skills crisis created by his Government over the past 8½ years.

But unfortunately the solution Mr Howard is putting forward is a gimmick.

The Federal Training Minister Brendan Nelson earlier this week could even tell radio listens where these private Colleges would be located, what courses they would teach and where they would recruit their staff from. Even more alarmingly, he conceded they won’t even be up and running until at least 2008.

Howard has an expensive gimmick.

Labor has a plan to fix the skills crisis that is here and now. A Latham Labor Government will pay the TAFE fees of the 200,000 students currently doing VET in schools; fund an additional 20,000 TAFE places; and create 13,600 apprenticeships through a greater investment in Group Training.