Australia’s Youth are Getting a Bad Deal—But So Is Australia’s Economy

In a recent opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins asserted that, “The young are mostly right, they are getting a bad deal. When they look at the economy that older generations are leaving for them, young Australians have a lot to be angry about.”

Gittins is absolutely correct when he says that youth are getting a bad deal, but so is Australia.

Australia’s future economy is dependent on the technical skills that TAFE teaches. Without skilled technicians, we will not be able to deliver submarines, high speed trains or any other manufactured product which, despite what our politicians may say, still contribute more to Australia’s GDP than mining.

Australia will fail to take advantage of the next industrial revolution driven by robotics and artificial intelligence, thereby fulfilling the dire social consequences predicted by so many commentators.

TAFE needs some work but it doesn’t need to be constantly restructured. Most importantly, the federal and state governments need to understand that it is a critical part of our national infrastructure in the same way as schools, roads, hospitals and universities are.

TAFE simply does not receive the funds required to deliver high-quality technical vocational training to Australians. Our governments treat TAFE as a business—not as infrastructure—expecting increased revenue year-on-year.

And yet, government-funded primary and secondary schools are not expected to generate revenue. So why has technical trade training become the poor relation of Australia’s education system?

According to Gittins, “A big part of this problem comes from the way successive ‘reforms’ by both sides of politics at both levels of government have stuffed up the choice between going to uni and going to TAFE or a for-profit provider of VET – vocational education and training.”

“The truth is that the efforts of federal and state governments of both colours to make VET ‘contestable’ by making for-profit education providers part of the system have been a disastrous failure.”

“So we’re back to relying on good old government-owned TAFE – always the education system’s poor relation, towards which the feds’ commitment runs alternatively hot and cold.”

I have received nothing but support from every TAFE that I have dealt with. The quality of the staff and their willingness to assist industry is simply second-to-none. Why our governments fail to leverage these resources to help make Australian industry more competitive, both locally and globally, I fail to understand.

Not only does TAFE needs a sustainable funding model, it deserves recognition of the critical role it plays in Australia’s economy and future prosperity.

TAFE is simply too important to be used as a political football.

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