NSW seeks new vocational training options for school students

New pathways are being planned to lead students through courses that would combine vocational education and training with subjects taught at school and university.

TAFE NSW managing director Steffen Faurby revealed the plan he is discussing with universities and businessman David Gonski who is conducting a government review into the state's vocational education and training sector.

"For me it makes the world of sense to put a program in place where we make the pathway for students from high school in and out of vocational education and university as easy as possible," Mr Faurby said.

TAFE NSW managing director Steffen Faurby.

TAFE NSW managing director Steffen Faurby.Credit:Louise Kennerley

News of the plan comes as NSW confirms it will match the federal government's $500 million commitment to a new "JobTrainer" scheme to run courses for thousands of workers to equip them with skills needed for the pandemic recovery.

The Danish bureaucrat also outlined his vision to commercialise TAFE by promoting it to industry and to international students after Australia reopens its borders.

While TAFE NSW would maintain its core role as a public provider of vocational training, Mr Faurby said it would also seek commercial opportunities with industry and international students. Mr Faurby said TAFE had a social responsibility to help people reskill and find jobs, but this did not mean it could not also "go out and provide service to the private sector".

TAFE needed to be "clever" about the way it spent government funds, while looking for commercial opportunities to grow, he said. "In that sense I certainly see TAFE as a business," Mr Faurby said.

Mr Faurby said he hopes to promote courses to international students when the coronavirus threat subsides, on campus and online.

"We see that as a massive opportunity for TAFE to turn a place like Ultimo into the place where we welcome thousands of international students to come and enjoy not just what we have to offer, but what Sydney has to offer," he said.

TAFE NSW was already working with schools to provide vocational courses that would target areas of skills shortage including health services.


Mr Faurby said he was seeking opportunities to combine university and TAFE courses as part of a single qualification.

"There is a great opportunity for leveraging and creating a bridge between what happens in vocational training with what happens at university," he said.

"I have confidence that what will come out of this is a defined pathway where universities and the vocational sector will go hand in hand in defining good outcomes and good solutions for students."

The federal government also announced it would spend $1.5 billion on further wage subsidies for apprentices including this year’s school-leavers, to extend its stimulus measure beyond the original September deadline.

The state's peak business organisation, Business NSW, welcomed the funding for existing apprentices, but said more needed to be done to encourage employers to take on new apprentices. Its analysis shows there will be 54,000 fewer apprenticeships starting across Australia this year – 97,000 compared to 151,000 last year.

Business NSW chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright said extension of the wage subsidy to support apprentices and trainees was in line with its recommendations, reported last week.

“Businesses will be heartened by the ongoing support for apprentices beyond 30 September, which was looming large as an economic cliff,” Mr Cartwright said.

“On the down side, it is disappointing that there has been no announced increase in support for those wanting to commence an apprenticeship.

“The nation is still at risk of significant skills shortages in three to four years’ time without new starters coming on board."

NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the government looked forward to working with the Commonwealth to deliver vital skills training.

"NSW is happy to sign up to the agreement which is complementary to our skills and training strategy," he said. "COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge ... There has never been a more important time to drive the economy forward, create jobs and support school leavers."

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