HUNTER TAFE staff have urged the new head of the beleaguered organisation to “set boundaries” with the government to ensure TAFE’s survival, following the unexpected resignation of managing director Jon Black.
Mr Black stepped down last week after three years in the role and has been replaced by a deputy secretary of NSW Treasury, Caralee McLiesh, who is now acting managing director.
“Your dedication and commitment to skills and vocational training has inspired me and helped me through some of the challenging times in my tenure,” Mr Black wrote to staff on Friday.
A Hunter employee who wished to remain anonymous said staff were “shocked”.
“We knew that the task given to him was like Mission Impossible,” they said.
“I felt he was always going to bail out but thought it would be later.
“We think it’s been political pressure that’s forced the early exit, as I feel Jon’s and the government’s agendas were competing against each other.
“Some parts of the government want to minimise TAFE’s infrastructure and financial footprint.
“Whereas Jon wanted TAFE to be bigger, better and more relevant to today’s learning and provide relevant course offerings to today’s generation.”
The Herald has previously reported TAFE facing funding cuts, a drop in enrolments, a failing IT system and claims staff were battling for basics like toilet paper, as well as necessary equipment.
The NSW Teachers Federation said in a statement that it would seek an urgent meeting with Dr McLiesh to discuss its concerns.
Read more: The debate over a leaked TAFE document
It said while it “supports the concept of a unified system of TAFE NSW, there have been significant issues in the implementation of One TAFE”.
The One TAFE reforms aim to streamline administration, governance and digital processes across campuses.
The Federation’s Hunter representative Rob Long said the organisation could “shuffle leaders all they like, but they’re not addressing the problem” of TAFE having to compete for government funding.
The staff member said the organisation’s restructure had been “brutal” and “created a knowledge and experience vacuum, leaving barely enough experienced staff to help keep TAFE moving while training new employees”.
“The new managing director will have to set boundaries with the government and the government with the new managing director, so TAFE can be free to grow back into something worth promoting as a viable training path for future students.”
Treasury documents show the state government has cut more than $130 million from TAFE NSW in staffing redundancies and restructuring costs since 2014. A further $8.8 million in cuts is budgeted for this year.
Sign up to receive the latest breaking news, as well as the top stories of the day selected by the editors of the Newcastle Herald: