A recent protest over cuts to TAFE.
A recent protest over cuts to TAFE. Adam Hourigan

TAFE overhaul sparks fears of closures, job losses

TEACHERS have accused the New South Wales Government of deliberately waiting until after the Federal Election to announce reforms that would rip more jobs out of TAFE.

The government has confirmed an undisclosed number of jobs would be lost when it overhauls the state's vocational training system, disbanding 10 separate institutes such as North Coast TAFE and reassembling them under a single, multi-campus TAFE NSW banner.

"Under the new TAFE model, we will invest heavily in improving course delivery and content, so that regardless of whether a student walks into TAFE in Castle Hill, Coonabarabran, or Cooma, they can expect the same high-quality, industry-relevant content," Skills Minister John Barilaro said.

"This reform will make significant savings on back office administration and management which will be reinvested back into training and skilling the people of NSW for the jobs of the future.

"Excessive overheads, a large and underutilised asset base and inflexible workforce arrangements are diverting valuable government funding away from the most important job TAFE has - training our workforce of the future."

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon suggested the reforms were an excuse to shut down campuses and sell off land.

"Folding 10 TAFE institutes into one will obviously have major repercussions, including job losses and campus sales," she said.

A leaked cabinet document late last year listed 27 TAFE sites pegged for sale, including Murwillumbah, Maclean and Ballina.

Murwillumbah's shutdown has been confirmed but the fate of the other North Coast TAFE sites remains unknown, although institute director Elizabeth McGregor in September suggested Maclean would not be sold - the campus at Trenayr would be instead.

NSW Teachers Federation acting president Denis Fitzgerald remains sceptical about the government's intentions.

He said NSW TAFE had lost half of its students over the past three years, down from 539,146 students in 2012 to 255,781 in the third term of 2015.

"In the same year that this government announced a massive surplus, they continue their attacks on TAFE and the students and communities that rely on TAFE to build their futures," Mr Fitzgerald said.

The group issued a media statement saying: "Now that the Federal Election is over, the NSW government is once again pursuing its mission to wreck TAFE."

Australian Industry Group NSW branch head Mark Goodsell said any money raised through campus sales must be recycled back into TAFE.

"Importantly, the minister has committed to retaining the proceeds of asset recycling within the TAFE system and industry will monitor that commitment as we face significant but evolving skill needs in NSW which will require additional and continuing investment," he said.