Union fears closure of Dapto TAFE campus

Maurie Mulheron (front) with others from political, union and teaching sectors during a meeting in Wollongong to talk about the Stop TAFE cuts campaign. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Maurie Mulheron (front) with others from political, union and teaching sectors during a meeting in Wollongong to talk about the Stop TAFE cuts campaign. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Dapto TAFE campus is being emptied of staff and students and is slated for closure or rental to a private provider, according to union sources.

United Services Union president Kathleen Haddon said course offerings at the once-busy site had been whittled down to "two or three gardening classes a week", and no permanent teaching staff were now stationed on campus.

Only about 80 mostly departmental staff remained, and at least 40 of these - human resources, IT and communications staffers - would soon be relocated to West Wollongong TAFE and Department of Education offices at Warilla North Public School, Mrs Haddon said.

"I've watched Dapto TAFE over 25 years go from a vibrant, fun place to work at, with lots of students and interaction, to a ghost town, and it's a very sad state of affairs," Mrs Haddon said.

"I think [Dapto campus] will either close down or be rented to private providers, or they'll just have it in caretaker mode. To close it down would be such a big political thing."

Mrs Haddon detailed the site's decline in Wollongong on Monday at a NSW Teachers Federation-led campaign gathering opposing TAFE funding cuts.

She afterwards told the Mercury one of the eight blocks at Dapto campus was empty, and entire floors in at least four other blocks were vacant.

Lack of maintenance had given rise to "safety issues".

She estimated fewer than 200 students had attended classes at the campus in 2013.

Figures provided by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli's office late last year showed enrolments at the Dapto campus fell from 658 in 2010 to 348 in 2012, but the government and TAFE Illawarra have repeatedly refused to provide enrolment numbers for 2013.

The Teachers Federation campaign, which will travel to Bega, Moruya and Cooma, aims to stop the state government's Smart and Skilled reforms.

From January 2015 the changes will place TAFE institutes in competition with private colleges.

Funding cuts in the lead-up have been blamed for an estimated 100 redundancies state-wide.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye told Monday's forum the full extent of the job losses was unknown.

Monday's forum heard:

- Forty permanent teachers and staff have been made redundant from Illawarra TAFE in the past 12 months.

- An internal review of Illawarra TAFE's general education, information technology and business studies courses is under way, raising the possibility of more job cuts.

- Fashion courses will be cut at West Wollongong TAFE next year.

- Illawarra TAFE students in electrical trades, fitting and machining, metal fabrication and welding have had their classes cut from 36 weeks to 30 weeks a year.

NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron warned the reforms would result in "an unregulated market [populated by] people with minimal or no qualifications teaching".

"We see huge corporations in the wings, waiting to pick the eyes out of [vocational education and training] provision next year," he said.

A TAFE Illawarra spokeswoman would not respond to concerns about the closure of Dapto campus, only saying that parts of the corporate services centre - finance, human resources, assets and properties and information technology and communications units - had reduced in the past three years "as a result of the introduction of new business systems and streamlining of business processes".

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