ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B (Hon David Bartlett – Minister for Education)

Wednesday 28 June 2006

Mr FINCH - Just following on from what Mr Hall asked about in respect of the Federal Government's new college, the funding relationship between the Tasmanian and Federal Governments over TAFE colleges have been fraught in the past. How would you describe that relationship now?

Mr BARTLETT - As I said, I recently attended my first ministerial council. There are always going to be flare-ups in relationships. I could probably label a couple of them at the moment but I would rather focus on the positives. The positives are that our next ministerial council of States and the Hon. Gary Hardgrave, the Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, will be focused on further reforms in the VET sector across Australia, working collaboratively on how we can launch a new round of reforms that will continue to do the sorts of things we want to do here in Tasmania.

Under John Smyth and now under Malcolm, I believe and I think it is well recognised - it is certainly recognised by Gary Hardgrave - that we are probably between 12 and 18 months ahead in terms of implementation of some of the last round of reforms and also in terms of our TAFEs working flexibly with industry. Therefore, if you are leading the pack, you tend to have less flare-ups with the Federal Government in those sorts of things. My personal view is that I will work collaboratively for the best outcome of Tasmania, and the argy bargy of politics does not necessarily get us there. I am looking forward, again with John and Malcolm and Michael, to continuing to lead the debate in Australia about the next set of reforms that we need in vocational education and training. That will only enhance our relationship with the Federal Government.

There are always issues that come up. For example, through the skilling Australian legislation that the Federal Government has brought in there is a requirement for us to put in place particular industrial relations mechanisms that personally as a Labor government we are not that comfortable with. There is always the threat of ripping funding out of our system if we do not do it. There is all that stuff that goes on in politics between the State and Federal level, particularly when you have a rampant ideologically-based -

Mr FINCH - State Government.

Mr BARTLETT - Industrial - that was not where I was headed but fair enough. For example, at the last ministerial council there was a whole range of what we classed as draconian measures in reporting that, as States were being required by Minister Hardgrave, against our VET plan. And under some pressure but also some negotiation and some collaboration Minister Hardgrave backed off from a whole range of those reporting requirements. Therefore I think that is a way in which we are working together state and federally to have better outcomes. That is just an example.

Mr FINCH - Pardon me if I have missed some future projections that were mentioned earlier in the figures, but one of the department's outcomes in respect of vocational training is to ensure that the number of Tasmanians who participate in post compulsory education and training increases. Could you just detail for me a program that is going to ensure we do have that increase?

Mr BARTLETT - Certainly, the guaranteeing futures legislation is going to provide a significant impetus towards the answer to your question which is more people participating in training and education past year 10?

However, it is worth giving a summary of the sorts of investments we are making in this Budget and in subsequent Budgets through the forward estimates. In this Budget we have $9.6 million extra into TAFE over four years, which will enable the training of an additional 320 apprentices. We have introduced a fee cap for young apprentices and trainees of $300. This is on top of my predecessor's Skills for Growth package, which was in the previous Budget, of $12.6 million over four years - so it is still being rolled out - to target key skill development needs.

We have $4 million in Supporting Enterprise Development, $4 million in the Trades Express program, $1.9 million in the Skills Direct program and over $1 million in the Training Outcomes for Migrants and Refugees. I will add that many of the migrant and refugee populations we have in Tasmania are helping us to meet many of the skill needs that we have - Malcolm might like to elaborate on that. We have $1.6 million in travel, and new state funding of $2.75 million has been allocated to training in the State's fishing, aquaculture and maritime industries. Of course, that was following the withdrawal of Commonwealth funding for that purpose, with the State making up the shortfall there. Broadly, in answer to your question, these are the things going forward that will allow us to provide for the required growth that we know we need to have.

Mr HALL - Did you want Malcolm to comment on the African refugees?

Mr WHITE - Just to state that at Drysdale we worked with a group of African refugees and I think there has been a tremendous flow-on response out into the restaurant industry, particularly in Hobart.

Mr FINCH - Another desired outcome is the development of partnership arrangements between schools, colleges and TAFE Tasmania. Is there any encouragement of more horizontal cooperation - and by that I mean colleges? I guess the impression that in the case of Launceston and Newstead colleges there is very little cooperation. Yet I would have thought there was scope for probably greater efficiency through maybe a closer relationship in Launceston.

Mr BARTLETT - As I eluded to earlier in our discussion about colleges, we do need to look closely at what is being provided through TAFE currently. Malcolm much more eloquently than me outlined the two different types of students we have at TAFE, whether they are enterprise-based students or career-based students. Then what we have at colleges where we have certificate I and certificate II VET plus pre-employment students plus pre-tertiary students.

If you look at that mix across the two institutes, senior secondary colleges and TAFE colleges across the State - I think this is at the heart of your question - there is a question to be asked about whether it is the best possible use of resources providing the best possible pastoral care to kids. Is TAFE the right way to deliver particular outcomes; or are senior secondary colleges the right way to deliver particular outcomes? And with that, are our colleges working closely together or are they in competition to each other and duplicating?

In Launceston, we have the TAFE Alanvale campus and the city campus, we have the Launceston College campus and we have the Newstead campus. Could we look at ways that they could work better together and have a Launceston centric approach to education that does not duplicate and provides better possible outcomes? The short answer is yes, I believe we possibly can. The longer answer is that in the next six to 18 months we will look at how we might be able to do that. I do not know what the solution is but I think you raise a very good question.

Can I just answer a question previously asked about trade apprentices/trainees versus non-trade apprentices/trainees. The bottom line number I have here for 2005 is 12 959: 36 per cent of which - 4 727 - are trade-based apprentices and trainees; 8 232 of which are non-trade apprentices trainees. In the year from 2004-05, the trade-based ones have gone up by about 1 000 whereas the non-trade trainees have gone down by about 1 000.