VULNERABLE young people who’ve pulled themselves up by their bootlaces to find jobs could be back on the dole following a double-whammy from the state and federal governments.
Dozens of workers, including many Aboriginal youths, were guided through their high school years and into the child care industry by local non-profit training provider South Metropolitan Youth Link (SMYL).
But many are now pulling out because they’ve been told they’ll need higher qualifications — which will cost them nearly $10,000 courtesy of the Barnett government’s super-charged TAFE fees.
Kayla Rooney, who started working at a Bibra Lake child care centre 10 months ago, says she can’t afford it.
Her wage is $750 a week. Almost half of what’s left after tax goes towards her mortgage and she pays another $75 towards the car she needs to get to work.
Another $100 goes on food and $50 on medical costs. When power, fuel and phone bills are added in there’s already very little left over.
Finding another $192 a week is simply impossible, with the only alternatives loans at high interest rates (HECS doesn’t apply to TAFE).
“It’s a disincentive,” Ms Rooney glumly told the Herald.
Three of her workmates are in the same boat and also reconsidering their careers.
“When I was told it was going to be $10,000, I didn’t think it was what a diploma would be worth — it seems very expensive.”
Asked what she’ll do instead of childcare, she shakes her head.
“I’m not sure, I am really dumbfounded,” she says, fearful of losing her house and ending up homeless.
Meanwhile, she’s studying towards the diploma, with fees covered so far by SMYL, but that could end.
SMYL CEO Sam Gowegati says the state government has made it harder for his organisation to negotiate a fee waiver for clients. Previously when a waiver was accepted the state would pick up the tab, but now it says training organisations must wear the costs.
“That means charities like SMYL are going broke trying to do the right thing by our struggling students,” he told the Herald.
He says the fees marginalise young people who are starting to make their way in society.
“It’s also bad economics,” he says.
“Many will end up on the dole and there will be additional pressure on social services and the health department.”
He says employment opportunities for Aboriginal youth are thin on the ground and child care can be an important stepping stone for many to get into the workforce.
A fortnight ago the WA teachers union launched a new campaign against TAFE’s skyrocketing fees, staff cuts and course closures.
Cuts amounting to $110 million in three years have seen student numbers plummet, it says.
“This has led to fees increasing in some courses by more than 600 per cent in two years,” union president Samantha Schofield says.
“The figures show student numbers dropped by 7000 in 2014 and we estimate they have dropped by another 7000 this year.”
by STEVE GRANT