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Small Biz Matters – a half hour program each week where you can work 

ON your business rather than IN it.

Small Business – The State Budget

with Matt Kean MP for Hornsby

Date: 7th July 2015

Matt Kean Q&A

PRIOR to interview – I think Matt Kean and I would agree on the importance on TAFE institutes providing Small Business (the largest employer group in Australia) with the skilled workers, apprentices and technical skills the business community needs. But the real-life stories coming from those who work and study at TAFE have been particularly negative in the last couple of years and the degradation of the courses, facilities and staffing numbers will surely have an impact on the small businesses which rely so heavily on these skilled workers.

Let me give my listeners a real life example:

  • I visited my hairdresser today and asked him what he thought of the impact on funding cuts in TAFE to his industry. Hayden was now a senior stylist with a great job, but not without putting in the hard yards studying and working as an apprentice whilst he studied at TAFE> He’s one of the lucky ones. The funding was cut to Certificate 4 Hair & Beauty courses at TAFE a little over a year ago so many students having to further their study through private institutes to complete their Cert 4 which is an industry standard. Also, the cost of the Certificate 3 course has jumped from $500 only a couple of years ago when Hayden was studying to $2000 for the government subsidised course, a jump of four fold.
  • The industry by far prefers to hire TAFE educated apprentices over those with a privately education – in fact the owner of the salon I was in today teaches at the local TAFE but it is more and more difficult to find apprentices since the fees are so restrictive for many studying.
  • The impact on the industry means it is harder to find good apprentices and many are not completing their training (Cert 4) and instead moving away from the field altogether. That means a loss of apprentices across the industry.

Is this a slow privatisation of specialised, skilled learning away from TAFEs and into Private institutions. The majority of students are coming to TAFEs because they are seeking the skills to enter the workforce, and because other educational opportunities are not available to them.

And another comment from one of my small business colleagues, Adrienne McLean President of the Hornsby Chamber of Commerce:

TAFE is a practical facility which really caters for 16+ yos who are not really suited for main stream school – Bradfield College at St Leaodards is for Yrs 11 and Yr12 – this is apart of the TAFE system – brilliant for those students who didn’t do well in either government or the private system. 

Even PHD graduates go to TAFE after their degrees to do practical parts of their topic – Paul went to Crows Nest TAFE and then Bradfield – they treat the teenage like adults and somehow can get the best out of them – their approach is extraordinary

Firstly, thanks for coming on Small Biz Matters and congratulations on your recent appointment as the Deputy Treasurer for NSW

  • Firstly Matt can you give us a brief rundown on how the recently delivered State Budget will deliver for Small Businesses in Hornsby?
    • I will ask about the Small Business Minister’s press release talking about $14million package for the Small Biz Connect program however we still don’t have access to a Business Enterprise Centre which any closer than Chatswood or Central Coast so how will the businesses in Hornsby directly benefit from such a program
  • I note in the Media Release by the NSW Small Business Minister after the budget that there will be “More than $2.3 billion in vocational education and training (VET), which includes a $2 billion investment in TAFE”; an increase in $122 million compared with last year’s budget and I note that in the same release it specifies $101 million capital works program. These numbers all sound fabulous but how are they going to build TAFE up to its the Smart and Skilled reforms were designed to bring changes that would “an extra 46,000 students would be able to study” according to the then Education Minister Piccoli but are the enrolments on track to reflect these improvements to student enrolment rates?
    • My concerns will be how can we realistically expect enrolments to increase when the cost of studying at TAFE has increased four-fold? My bookkeeping Cert 4 course has jumped from $500 only 1 year ago to $2000? How exactly is that going to increase enrolments by 46,000 students across NSW?
  • And a question from one of my small business colleagues about local TAFE funding – Would love to know if it is true that they are planning on turning Galston High school into a TAFE?
  • Several of my listeners have specifically asked about the funding cuts to the Outreach services – the disability side of TAFE. There have been some extreme cuts to Outreach programs in recent times. Has this recent budget brought the funding levels back to where they were before the drastic funding cuts of

Here are some real life examples from your constituents in the Hornsby area:

  • My friend has a family business and deals with Japanese clients overseas so she took up Japanese in TAFE and she was so excited going to school again after kids etc all those years, but she has sadly pulled out due to increasing fees. Definitely negative for her. Luckily it’s a small class and the teacher is nice, she still contacts him sometimes to ask for advice, and he doesn’t charge. From what I heard it was a small and close knit group so they were devastated when one by one quit due to fee increase
  • And the example I gave earlier about the hairdresser in Hornsby struggling to find apprentices since Cert 4 courses are unaffordable – how can cutting funding overall really benefit anyone, small business or the education system?

Sarah TAFE worker – 14years experience teaching in TAFE

  • Fees from $800 a semester to $8000 in IT
  • Why are students going to takeout a loan or invest in this course when there’s uncertainty around employment
  • Students are spooked by the fee increase & sentiment
  • Last 12 months morale has been really low. She’s a casual teacher and there are very few
  • Long term trend moving towards an 70-80% casualization rate of teachers meaning a loss of annual leave
  • Students have dropped so low there’s only enough classes for the FT teachers. The casuals bring the expertise and the industry ties, work multiple jobs and experience outside of teaching (and the fact that in IT they need to constantly be up-skilling themselves to be selected to teach) So the casual teachers, with these changes to their employment arrangements are moving elsewhere or leaving teaching altogether. With them the industry relevance the ties the real life industry go with them.
  • Impact of funding cuts – Enrollment down by 40% in her
  • Casuals literally losing their jobs because their hours are relating to enrolments.
  • Every semester casuals have to reapply but 12 months sago even the full timers had to reapply – which never happened before. Staff are becoming more cynical and fearful of management saying one things and acting in another way to undermine what they’ve said. Having said that though they are beholden to the budget process.
  • How did you feel when there was a surplus announced? Angry. This ideology of user-pays has ramification across many industry. So where does this surplus go?
  • Cuts to disability services in TAFE. Specifically Sarah has stated that this semester the students haven’t been able to book aids due to funding cuts. Actual specific who was hearing impaired, couldn’t get access to the teacher’s aids so he had to drop out of the course. The sign-interpreters are casuals too, and have had their funding cut.