Petersham TAFE in inner-western Sydney, like most TAFE campuses in NSW, is experiencing the beginnings of a mass exodus of teachers into retirement, precipitating a drastic skills shortage that will start to bite in the next few years.
Many sections will see more than half of their staff retire in the next 18-36 months. The courses affected are across the board, but include adult basic education, electro-technology, hairdressing, child care, pathology and pharmaceuticals.
The NSW Teachers Federation is concerned that a plan for the future of the TAFE system that doesn't specify that the institutes' workload is to be done by permanent staff will result in even greater casualisation of the TAFE work force. Younger teachers facing a future without job security are likely to opt for the private sector, leaving TAFE with far too few employees required to do too much work.
The teachers' union is therefore seeking a staffing agreement with the government that sets a target for permanent staff of 60%. It also wants an agreement that will enable teachers who have been employed on a temporary basis in the same position for more than two years to be made permanent.
Some teachers at Petersham TAFE have waited 20 years to be made permanent. In other sections, no permanent staff have been hired for more than 10 years. Federation members at Petersham TAFE therefore unanimously passed a resolution on January 30 calling on the NSW minister for education and training, Carmel Tebbutt, "to finalise a staffing agreement with the Teachers Federation that includes ratios for delivery by permanent staff and is funded by the government. This agreement should also provide for the conversion of long-term temporary TAFE teachers to permanency consistent with Section 31 of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act, satisfactory monitoring agreements and succession planning for the future in view of the impending large number of TAFE teacher retirements."