Future still uncertain as TAFE waits on plan response

SOUTH West TAFE will have a clearer picture of its future when the state government responds to its business transition plan early next month, chief executive officer Peter Heilbuth says. 

The institute, along with every other TAFE around the state, is awaiting a response from the government about their business transition plans, drawn up to help combat millions of dollars slashed from state government funding. 

The government’s lack of response means the plans don’t have the tick of approval and funding remains uncertain. 

But Mr Heilbuth said it was business as usual at the institute. 

“While it’s not ideal to have uncertainty surrounding funding at the start of a new year, we are operating as normal,” Mr Heilbuth told The Standard. 

“We are still taking enrolments and have a full range of courses available. It’s very much business as usual.” 

Mr Heilbuth said the business transition plan was a detailed document that included a variety of solutions to cope with the budget cuts while still delivering a full range of courses to students.

South West TAFE board chairman Bill Hewett said in September last year the plan was “fearless” and had attempted to minimise staff cuts by reducing costs in other areas and trading in deficit for two years. 

Mr Heilbuth said it was hoped the plan would get government approval prior to Christmas, but delays in the process meant the government response date had to be pushed back. 

“The latest information I received was we could expect a response in early February,” he said. 

“Once the government gives us the tick of approval, we will then go about implementing the plan. If they have concerns we will continue to work with them to come up with something that suits both of us.” 

The government’s delay in responding to the plans has come under fire from the opposition, with its for higher education spokesman, Steve Herbert, saying the onus was on the government to take fast, effective action.

“The Baillieu government are yet to outline to the VET sector what it will do to assist TAFEs struggling with the massive cuts outlined in last year’s state budget,” Mr Herbert said. “The sector is desperately waiting on how the government will help them cope, along with staff and students who are also feeling the impact of the government’s ‘restructure’. 

“Many institutions’ transition plans outlined selling campuses, cancelling courses, sacking staff and hiking student fees. 

“In terms of limiting the impact caused by the cuts, the ball is firmly in the Baillieu government’s court.” 

A spokesman for Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall said the government had begun its consideration of the various options. 

“Further information has been sought and the government will be considering these matters early in 2013,” the spokesman said. 

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