Vocational Education Betrayed

I love TAFE.

I love the practical stuff that TAFE represents.  Training that means that your job is right there at the forefront of your industry.

My story is not unusual.  TAFE took me from the community sector through horticulture and into disability.  I did further tertiary study in theses areas to add value to my TAFE qualifications.  But TAFE was the entry-point, the thing that enabled all the further study.

Because of TAFE I was able to move from traditional female-dominated sector (community work) to a non-traditional one, male-dominated one (horticulture).  Iit wasn’t just about breaking down gender stereotypes, it recognised that women have a lot to offer in the trades – we are patient, have good fine motor skills, and are reliable employees.  We turn up and do the job.

The best thing about TAFE in the 90s was how integrated it was with industry.  When I did my first course in 1992, I got a job in the industry straight away.  The teacher had chatted to an employer who said ‘give us a call’ and I walked into a job in a production nursery.

Then when my career changed again I was back in TAFE in 1997, my fellow students were all workers from local disability services.  Most had come to disability ‘the long way round’, through caring or volunteering, or a career change.  There were a fair few blokes – more than you would normally get if you simply advertised for staff.

Study after study shows that this kind of peer-educator group-work is the way that people really learn.  Not ‘quickie’ online certificates, but the development of real, hardwired, professional practices and standards.

Victoria’s vocational education used to be the envy of the world – it was connected to, and responsive to, the needs of a changing workforce and the changing nature of work.  Vocational education was the driver for our economy.  Not any more.

What a mess successive Labor and Conservative Governments have left.

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