COMMUNITY opposition to South West Institute of TAFE’s funding cuts is growing, with prominent Warrnambool business and community leaders joining the protest campaign.
The 11 prominent Warrnam-bool business and community leaders placed an advertisement in The Standard yesterday saying the cuts were a serious mistake by the state government.
One of the letter’s instigators, former South West TAFE chief executive officer Barrie Baker, said it appeared the government wanted to divert funding from TAFEs to poor- quality private education providers.
The cuts would hit key entry level and “second chance” courses that had attracted good enrolments, Mr Baker said.
Those courses, such as basic hospitality and retail courses, had been labelled “Mickey Mouse” qualifications by the government, but had actually been equipping people with employable skills, he said.
Others to sign the open letter include Graham Ryan, of Ryans Freighters, and major Warrnambool hospitality provider Peter Walsh and Andrew Graham, from McLaren Sheet-metal Fabrications.
Mr Baker said there was “a broad groundswell of concern” about the cuts and many more people had said they opposed the cuts.
“It is fundamental services that are being cut,” he said.
“Everyone is calling for a better-trained workforce and reskilling but the cuts mean there is reduced opportunity for people to do it.”
The cuts will have a big impact on South West TAFE, forcing it to eliminate a further 15.5 effective full-time positions on top of the 28 positions it scrapped three months ago.
The institute will also relocate its arts department from Deakin University to the Warrnambool central campus, sell four houses at its Glenormiston campus and investigate consolidating its Hamilton campus.
South West TAFE teachers will today join their colleagues from throughout the state in industrial action to protest the cuts.
However, only about 16 of the institute’s 120 teachers will be stopping work.
Australian Education Union (AEU) spokeswoman at South West TAFE, Doreen Riseby, said while all teachers at the institute were against the TAFE funding cuts, the industrial action came at a critical time at the end of term 3 when key course components had to be delivered.
Ms Riseby said about eight teachers would travel to Melbourne today to join a mass rally in the Treasury Gardens near State Parliament while about another eight would stop work but not take part in the Melbourne rally.
The AEU said the funding cuts would mean hundreds of courses would be cut and many campuses closed, with some sold off.