The NSW Baird government's overhaul of TAFE was supposed to make the venerable institution modernise by competing with private training colleges.
Instead, school leavers have voted with their feet following fee hikes, dropping out of any vocational training in droves.
TAFE registered 22,000 fewer enrolments for the most useful, nationally recognised trade qualifications, or Certificate III courses, this year.
The 10 TAFE colleges had to compete for student enrolments (and government funding) with 330 private training colleges by cutting teachers and classes.
But the Budget papers show many of these missing TAFE students didn't go private when the new training market "Smart and Skilled" started on January 1.
There are 30,000 fewer students enrolled in government-funded vocational training of any sort in NSW this year. It appears these teens are sitting at home instead.
This is bad news for youth unemployment rates, and a NSW economy facing a shortage of tradespeople.
Raising fees by more than $500 for 40 per cent of TAFE students is a stumbling block.
Hiking them by thousands of dollars excludes students from low-income households, with a natural aversion to taking on debt such as the Commonwealth's VET Fee loan scheme. The scheme doesn't cover Certificate III courses anyway.
Deterring mature-aged students from retraining in another field by removing government subsidies for a second TAFE course, removes a pipeline of potential workers in skills shortage areas.
Tightening eligibility for fee exemptions for the disabled and Indigenous students leads to drop outs.
Claims disabled students wouldn't be disadvantaged have proven false, with the Budget papers showing 2400 fewer disabled students enrolled in vocational training, and 1900 fewer Indigenous enrolments.
Conservative government's were warned that this would happen yet they continue to do it. Similar disturbing data came out of Victoria and the new government has a job on its hands to rectify the mess that was made and apparently continues to be made in NSW.