Parliament: Questions Kelly's Asked

Non-Completion of Courses – Response

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question on TAFE SA.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I am advised that redundancy packages are being offered to staff at TAFE SA campuses in the Riverland. In February of last year, TAFE SA outlined plans to cut 150 jobs from across TAFE SA as a result of increased competition following the introduction of the Skills for All program. In The Weekend Australian last year, it was reported that the state government will slash $83 million, or about 45 per cent, of TAFE SA’s budget, initiating a round of redundancies, course closures and a reduction in Skills for All funding in 2014. My questions are:

1.Has the minister been advised that redundancies are now being offered to TAFE staff in the Riverland?

2.Can the minister advise of the number of TAFE redundancies offered this financial year and projected to be offered in the next financial year?

3.Has the minister been advised of any further redundancies to be offered to TAFE staff in regional and metropolitan South Australia?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:32 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important questions. I am aware that the TAFE SA board has approved a number of TVSPs to, I think, the Barmera/Berri region, and the advice I have received is that recently seven were announced. However, I have also been advised that TAFE has indicated that those reductions will not impact on the courses being made available to individuals, so there will not be any changes in that space.

It is obviously important that I make clear that TAFE SA is an independent statutory corporation, independent of the government, and that means that those decisions about its everyday operations, such as courses, redundancies, staffing issues, etc., are all operational matters which are the responsibility of the TAFE board. Obviously, it is not appropriate that I intervene in those sorts of daily operational decisions. I remind honourable members that the TAFE funding over the last five years has remained pretty steady, at around $200 million per annum, and that is also for this financial year.

Also during this same period, $240 million has been invested in new infrastructure and $14 million provided for various student support services. Also under Skills for All, this government has funded a significant increase in training with more than 100,000 extra training places available and, in fact, we reached our target three years earlier than expected. So, there has been a significant increase in training participation right throughout the state. For regional South Australia that is around a 54 per cent increase in training participation. So, we can see a great deal has been achieved through our Skills for All.

We know that there is a tight fiscal environment that this government is faced with and so all of our agencies including TAFE are required to make some tough decisions just like all other government departments and statutory authorities and, yet, TAFE remains one of the most cost-efficient quality training organisations available to students, with large subsidies continuing to be made available to students. Our TAFE system went from being the most cost-inefficient jurisdiction to now being the most efficient and that is because we have a TAFE board that has been willing to make tough decisions to streamline our services whilst maintaining high quality training provisions for our regional students.

In relation to those other operational questions, as I said, they are matters for the board and I would urge the Hon. Stephen Wade to contact the appropriate body to provide answers to those detailed questions.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Supplementary question. I ask the minister: has TAFE SA sought additional funding from government over and above the payments it receives for providing services through Skills for All?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers): I thank the member for his supplementary. There have been negotiations over the last number of years where we have sat down with TAFE. I understand that there were some additional funds that were made available to them for this financial year and we are looking at provisions for the next financial year as well. These are all matters for budgetary considerations and they will progress in the normal way that those budget matters are progressed.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Of the Skills for All courses undertaken, what number of students did not complete those courses?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:38 ): I don’t have the completion rate figures with me. I am happy to find those out and bring those back. TAFE is a quality provider and, obviously, the ultimate aim of our training education is to skill-up people so that they are better equipped to find jobs; that’s what it’s all about. The enrolment rates are obviously important to us, participation rates are important to us and completion rates are also important, but completion rates are not the only measure of successful education and training—they are just one measure of successful education and training. We believe that there is a lot to be gained by individuals engaging in training, whether they successfully complete that or not.

The Hon. T.A. Franks: What’s the point of it if they’re not completing it?

The PRESIDENT: Can we allow the minister to complete the answer?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: As I said, higher education and training is not just about completion rates; it is about skill acquisition along the way and preparing people to better be able to develop those skills they need to ultimately find employment. I am sure there would be members in this room who commenced courses and, after commencing them, realised that they were not suitable for them. However, through that experience they were able to refocus their attention on a career path or a further training or education path that was more suitable for them.

There is a lot of value in that; a person can gain experience and insight into where their interests might lie and where they might be better suited, particularly young people, who often require a couple of goes, if you like, testing the waters to see where their interests lie. Is the honourable member saying that that is of no value, that we will only enrol people who are absolutely committed to completion? As I said, completion rates are one important measure; enrolment and participation rates are also important measures.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: A supplementary question. Can the minister provide data as to the reasons for non-completion of courses?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers): I am happy to take that on notice and bring back a response.

In reply to the Hon. K.L. VINCENT ( 3 June 2014 )

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers): I have been advised —

The National Centre for Vocational Education and Research reports that students cite a number of reasons for not completing a course. These include:

Changing jobs

Transferring to more preferable training and education, including using the VET system as a pathway to university

Deciding that selected competencies of a course are sufficient to secure a job and the full qualification is not needed

Family and personal reasons.