THE NSW Teachers Federation has warned the future of Cooma TAFE is under threat, expecting courses and jobs to be slashed once the state government's Smart and Skilled policy is introduced from the start of next year.
A community forum held on Thursday night, July 24, heard from concerned TAFE representatives who believe the move to privatise vocational education courses will severely hamper Cooma's ability to produce skilled workers.
The NSW Teachers Federation continued their state-wide campaign opposing the 'Smart and Skilled' policies at a community forum at the Cooma Ex-Services Club, where they warned of possible job losses and course cuts at Cooma TAFE.
Members from the Federation and the Australian Education Union joined local Labor candidate Steve Whan to discuss the implications of the government's policy to be introduced from the start of next year.
Rob Long, the NSW Teachers Federation organiser, says the changes will have a greater affect on regional TAFE's, such as Cooma, than those in metropolitan areas. Mr Long went as far as saying Cooma TAFE even faces closure in the long-term.
"I'm really concerned this facility may shut," Mr Long said.
"January 1, 2015, is the commencement of the state government's Smart and Skilled Policy that will privatise TAFE funding. This means TAFE funding will be available to private for profit providers.
"Cooma teachers of general education and business studies are facing the possibility of redundancy."
Under the changes to Cooma TAFE, private entities will be able to provide the same courses at their own rates. Secretary of the South Coast Labor Council Arthur Rorris believes the changes will only favour big businesses and contribute to even greater skills shortages across the Monaro.
"The beauty of the TAFE system is that it's flexible enough to provide different services to unique areas, such as Cooma," Mr Rorris said.
"Under the new system local students will have to pay more for the privilege of undertaking vocational courses.
"Once you introduce profit as a motive the fees will have to be jacked up."
The Teachers Federation is concerned private operators will not have the interests of students as their priority, fearing the training students receive will not adequately suit the needs of local businesses.
"The privatisation will impact on our student's time to learn, with cuts to many course delivery hours.
Cooma TAFE teacher Allan Barkley attended the community forum where he called on people to support the TAFE, a place he has worked for 15 years.
"I fear a lack of access to an affordable and equitable vocational system," Mr Barkley said.
"I can't see Cooma TAFE surviving in this community. I hope I'm wrong."