TravelGuides – Labor pledges extra university and Tafe places to help rebuild industries hit by pandemic | Australian education

TravelGuides – Labor pledges extra university and Tafe places to help rebuild industries hit by pandemic | Australian education

Labor says it will fund up to 20,000 extra university places over 2022 and 2023, and provide access to 465,000 free Tafe places in nominated areas of skills shortages, if Anthony Albanese wins the next federal election.

The new skills and higher education commitments, worth $1.2bn, will be unveiled by the Labor leader at a campaign-style rally in Sydney on Sunday. The Tafe initiative will cost $621m over the forward estimates, and the university commitment costs $481.7m.

With federal parliament now finished for the year, and the election looming in the first half of next year, Labor has moved into campaign mode.

Sunday’s skills package is Labor’s second major election policy announcement in two days. Labor unveiled its new climate change policy on Friday, which includes an emissions reduction target for 2030 of 43% and a commitment to boost the share of renewables in the national electricity market to 82%.

Labor says providing free Tafe places in targeted areas will help rebuild the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, like hospitality and tourism, as well as meeting current and future needs in the care economy, including jobs in child care, aged care, disability care, nursing and community services.

The funding will provide more than 465,000 free Tafe places, including 45,000 new places. The package also includes a $50m technology fund to improve IT facilities, workshops, laboratories and telehealth simulators.

Labor will aim to prioritise the new funding for universities which are able to offer additional courses in national priority areas, such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing, health and education, or where there are skills shortages.

The opposition says funding for additional university places will help the higher education sector recover from the pandemic.

Universities did not have access to the wage subsidy jobkeeper, and the closure of the border meant institutions lost revenue from international students. Universities are estimated to have lost a total of 35,000 staff during the pandemic after government decisions effectively excluded them from the wage subsidy scheme.

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Policy documents circulated in advance of Sunday’s rally say universities will receive funding over six years from 2021-22 for the additional 20,000 commencing university places across 2022 and 2023 in national priority areas.

The additional funding will be allocated to universities based on the ability of institutions to offer additional places in areas of national priority and skills shortage; their programs to recruit underrepresented groups “like those who are the first in their family to go to university, and people in regional, remote and outer-suburban areas, and First Nations people”; and student demand.

In a statement circulated ahead of the rally, Albanese said the skills and higher education program would address some of the cuts to vocational training and apprenticeships.

“Today we have 85,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships compared to 2013,” the Labor leader said. “At the same time, it’s getting harder and more expensive to go to uni.”

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Albanese said the proportion of applicants who get an offer of a place at university “has fallen every year since the Liberal government slashed university funding – this year, the offer rate fell to its lowest level in years”.

“This has happened in the face of the stark economic reality that nine out of 10 jobs of the future will require a VET qualification or a university degree.”

Albanese said an intervention was necessary because one in four businesses were experiencing skills shortages and “at the same time there are two million Australians who are either looking for a job or want to work more hours”.

Labor’s announcement follows a separate higher education commitment from the Morrison government.

Under that proposal, unveiled by the prime minister during a speech to business leaders late last month, four “trailblazer” universities would receive a funding boost of more than $200m for research hubs to advance Australian manufacturing.

TravelGuides – Labor pledges extra university and Tafe places to help rebuild industries hit by pandemic | Australian education

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