Oct 6, 2004

The Illawarra’s technical colleges a gimmick


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 6 October 2004

Mr Howard’s private technical college proposed for the Illawarra is an expensive gimmick.

What’s more, unlike Labor’s commitment to abolish TAFE fees for all students wanting to learn a trade while still at high school, these federally funded but privately run technical colleges will only benefit a small number of young people living in the Illawarra.

The fact that Mr Howard has proposed these technical colleges simply highlights his ignorance of what is already occurring within our secondary schools. Last year alone, 3,600 senior public high school students in the Illawarra participated in VET in Schools – a program which allows students to learn a trade while still at high school.

Vet in School students currently enrolled in TAFE have to pay fees worth hundreds of dollars to participate in the program. A Latham Labor Government will abolish these TAFE fees.

While Mr Howard’s technical colleges will benefit only 300 to 500 young people living in the Hunter, Labor’s approach will help ALL young people participating in the VET in Schools program and studying at TAFE.

Even Liberal Party Senators have endorsed Labor’s approach. In their response to the Senate’s 2003 Skills Inquiry, the Liberal Party Senators on the Inquiry wrote:

“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 that 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 local skills crisis created by his Government over the past 8½ years.

But unfortunately the ‘idea’ Mr Howard is putting forward is an expensive gimmick.

The Federal Training Minister Brendan Nelson earlier this week couldn’t even tell radio listeners 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 for the few. Labor has a plan that will make sure no secondary student is denied a career in the traditional trades.