By Tanya Plibersek

18 November 2020


SUBJECTS: TAFE and apprentices; Universities; Australians looking for work.
SCOTT LEVI, HOST: The Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek, is on the Central Coast today to look at local issues in her portfolio and joins us on the line. Good morning. 
LEVI: Good to talk to you. How's the Ourimbah Campus of UON faring in these very tough times obviously being a sort of satellite campus. We only know too well, sometimes they get chopped before the major campus. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah well it's great to be visiting the Ourimbah Campus today with my colleague Emma McBride the Member for Dobell. Emma's got a fantastic relationship with the university and particularly Ourimbah campus, where over the years a lot of people have started their university studies with an enabling course. So today we're going to be talking to the university about enabling courses. The Government's made some changes in the latest budget which make it harder for universities to offer these courses, like bridging courses that give you a taste of university life and see if you’re suitable and you're into it. 
LEVI: But the Government did renege on that idea to charge for those courses, which is a huge thing for Ourimbah isn't it? Where open foundation enabling courses are so important when we see those statistics that we quoted at the top of the interview.
PLIBERSEK: They have actually reduced the funding that enables these courses to be offered for free, and they've capped the number of places available. So some universities are, I believe, will continue to offer these courses for free. But it's just become much harder for universities to do that. 
LEVI: Does that make economic sense though? 
PLIBERSEK: No it makes no sense.
LEVI: Because it’s a try before you buy, they get a taste of university style of education, which is quite different to school. And then if they can do it then they go on and then they could spend you know, $60,000 over the course of their career to pay it back. So I don't understand? 
PLIBERSEK: That's why a lot of universities will continue to do it because they want students to have the confidence to try. The last time I was at the Ourimbah campus I spoke to a lot of people who'd come in through this enabling pathway and I asked all of them 'would you have done this if you had to pay up front to do the course?' and most of them - like a lot of them are mums with kids who've just started school, they've got the mortgage to pay or the rent to pay. If you said to them, ‘you’ve got to pay five or ten or fifteen thousand dollars up front to do this course, would you have done it?’ And all of them said no. They couldn't have afforded it and they wouldn't have taken the risk on themselves.
LEVI: But can we afford it, if Labor gets into power, will it blow out of control?
PLIBERSEK: Can we afford not to Scott?  We've got the highest unemployment we've seen in generations. We've got the worst economy since a hundred years, since the Great Depression. And we've got on the Central Coast, you know better than I do, that we've had a historic problem with youth unemployment, even before this recession. If young people aren't earning they should be learning. We want them preparing for the jobs that are created in the recovery. The worst thing, the very worst thing is to lose a generation of people to unemployment. Because we know if you're unemployed for a few years, then the next generation of people have graduated from school or TAFE or uni, there's a big likelihood you'll stay unemployed, and that's just a tragedy. I remember people who lost their jobs in the 1990s recession, which is when I was leaving university, who never worked again or who never achieved what they wanted to because they were always in marginal insecure employment. We just cannot afford to let that happen to another generation of young people. And we know that that is the consequence of people being locked out of the labour market and been locked out of study.
LEVI: Now in contrast to university education qualifications, we're well represented in certificate and TAFE style training statics, you know people are doing really well. They're gaining those those certificates. There has been a shift away from TAFE to a privatised model in the past, which was the case with Labor as well at some time. You know, it was quite a disaster really when you look at those Avoca Colleges and other things. Are the major parties starting to re-evaluate the need for TAFE? It seems sometimes the old tried-and-true systems are the best? 
PLIBERSEK: I think you're absolutely right. And our big TAFE public providers have consistently provided a really good quality education. We tried to introduce more competition into the market and it went wrong. I don't think there's any question that it went too far, that we had a lot of people thinking here's a quick buck we can make and getting into providing cheap dodgy courses. We don't want that. We want quality post-school education, whether it's university or TAFE - that should be up to the individual. There shouldn't be- the price of the education shouldn't be the thing stopping you. You should be able to study the thing that's going to get you a job or the thing that you feel passionately about. And with both TAFE and university you have to focus on quality. The dodgy short courses with the inducements, sign up here, we’ll give you a free iPad and oh by-the-way you'll get a $40,000 debt for a course that you never attend. That was a disaster. 
LEVI: Now industry involvement was always a massive cornerstone of TAFE education, is the organization turning out workers who could do the jobs that are ready to go? 
PLIBERSEK: TAFE is a fantastic organisation, but with $3 billion of cuts from the Federal Government to TAFE and training in recent years, you are seeing the impact of that. Today, Emma McBride and I are going to be talking to one of her local business owners who employs 24 staff, and he says he would love to take on more, but he cannot get the trained workers he needs through the local TAFE. They are not offering the sort of qualifications that he needs for his business. And I think that's a terrible shame. In fact, since the Federal Liberals came to power, there have been 1200 apprentice and trainee places lost from the Central Coast. Around the country 140,000 fewer Australian Apprentices today than when the Liberals came to office. That is just crazy at a time when we've got such high unemployment, such job insecurity. Our economy is really struggling. We need to make these opportunities for people to get into work and for businesses to expand with confidence.
LEVI: All right. Thank you for joining us on the program Tanya Plibersek.
PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure, thank you for having me.