The NSW Government is considering the sale of North Coast TAFE NSW’s campuses at Maclean and Trenayr, according to the NSW Greens.
Meanwhile, Country Labor says jobs and courses have been cut and fees have gone up.
On September 12, the NSW Greens issued a media release claiming that a leaked document “labelled ‘cabinet in confidence’ shows the Baird government is considering stripping $63 million out of TAFE buildings and land”.
Greens MP, Dr John Kaye, said the document shows that $54.5 million would be “recycled” into “proposed capital investments”; and that $34.2 million of that money would be spent on information technology and not new facilities, buildings or land.
Maclean was among a list of campuses “being lined up for sale or downsizing”, Mr Kaye said.
A letter in this week’s Independent, from the Clarence Greens, elaborates.
The group’s convenors write that Trenayr “will be sold for a return of $1.85 million” and that Maclean campus “will be divested to Maclean High School for a return of $1.24 million to TAFE”.
Dr Kaye believes that the NSW Government is working towards privatisation of vocational education in the state.
“The clear objective is a smaller public system,” he said. “This is exactly what happened in Victoria with devastating consequences for the quality of skills and the ability of young people to gain vocational education.
“The … government’s competitive training market is clearly taking its toll on the public system and the Cabinet knows it.
“Pushing up fees, cutting back on courses at TAFE and reducing support for students has inevitably created ghost campuses.
“Communities with high levels of unemployment are in line to lose TAFE facilities. This will be a body blow to many young people struggling to make their way in the world.”
The Clarence Greens put it like this: “The North Coast TAFE Institute is responding to the pressures of the competition agenda and the lack of secure ongoing funding by shifting to online delivery.
“This then is their excuse for selling off facilities and land.”
Following a meeting of the State Electoral Council last Saturday, Trent Gilbert, Country Labor Clarence State Electoral Council’s president, issued a media release claiming that “the destruction of our skills education and training programs” by the government “is biting hard” in the Clarence electorate.
“We have watched courses slashed,” he said. “We have watched the prices go up beyond the reach of the unemployed.
“Even with long term loans many jobs will never deliver the wages to pay the loans back.”
The teaching and administration jobs Mr Gilbert says have been cut across the north coast is leading to the selling off of “the empty shells some of our campuses have become in the last couple of years”.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis told the Independent that the releases from the Greens and Country Labor were “essentially scaremongering”.
“It’s not big news or anything new; the NSW Government has said in relation to TAFE that it will investigate all assets and do an audit on them to determine which ones are effective at delivery of education services and which ones aren’t.”
“TAFE is not about bricks and mortar; it is about delivering students an education – students want it in the workplace and they want it online.
“Sometimes it can be extremely futile to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain an old building when there are either no students or few students using it.
“Let’s not get attached to bricks and mortar; let’s get attached to delivering a modern efficient vocational education services to students the way they want them in the 21st century; and in a way that their employers want them.”
He said the Trenayr campus was an example, where “it is only used for a few [student] camps a year; the rest [of the course] is delivered online”.
North Coast TAFE NSW was unable to respond to questions in time to meet the paper’s print deadline. The Independent will publish its response next week.