Is TAFE in trouble?

Voicing their opinion: Students and teachers rallied outside the North Coast TAFE Port Macquarie Campus last year as concerns about the future of the institution grow.

Voicing their opinion: Students and teachers rallied outside the North Coast TAFE Port Macquarie Campus last year as concerns about the future of the institution grow.

PLANS for a federal takeover of TAFE have drawn mixed reactions on the Mid-North Coast.

Fairfax Media revealed yesterday it had obtained documents to be distributed ahead of March's Council of Australian Governments meeting.

The commercial-in-confidence documents show the Turnbull Government proposes deregulating TAFE fees and making TAFEs compete with private colleges.

Federal Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Luke Hartsuyker, whose Cowper electorate will include Port Macquarie from February 25, yesterday stressed it was a "draft document put through for consideration and is yet to be in its final form".

"It is the basis of a discussion on whether we can deliver better training and how we could do it," he said.

"You should never avoid having those kinds of discussions."

Former TAFE employee Krissa Wilkinson said the big issue is governments "want to move away from public education".

"The terrible thing is TAFE has offered so many people a second chance," she said.

"And these are people who would not otherwise have been involved in the education sector at all.

"As a former teacher I have seen it change the lives of so many.

"That's what makes it a pretty tragic thing to see right now."

The North Coast TAFE's institute director Elizabeth McGregor refused to answer questions about fears of increased debt and fees for students.

"Clearly, there is a lot of policy interest in the vocational education and training (VET) sector nationally and state-wide and we'll continue to monitor this closely," she said.

"But our job isn't to speculate about policy - it's about meeting the needs of our students and employers.

"Here on the North Coast we continue to work with all levels of government and other stakeholders to make sure we can continue to deliver outcomes for our customers throughout the region."

NSW Greens MP and acting education spokesman David Shoebridge said regional areas were "particularly vulnerable" when public services were privatised because of the high cost of delivering services.

"Deregulation will inevitably see further closures and downsizing of regional TAFEs," he said.

"This will remove access to training, reskilling and second-chance education in regional areas, precisely at a time when they should be the target of significantly more investment into renewable energy and other sustainable industries."

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