How important is education to rural communities?
Very important according to the NSW Teachers Federation.
It is so important they have run the risk of putting the current government offside by siding with Labor in an argument over TAFE funding.
The Federation says the Coalition is not fair dinkum about funding TAFE.
They say a vote for Labor is a vote for the educational future of regional youth.
Federal Labor, if elected, will invest $1 billion into revitalising TAFE and "supercharging" the economy by encouraging the uptake of apprenticeships in areas of significant skills shortages.
Labor's Bill Shorten highlighted the gulf between his party and the Liberals and Nationals in regards to skills and apprenticeships during his budget reply speech.
He says Labor, if elected, as part of the $1 billion investment will set up a $200m building TAFE for the future fund to re-establish TAFE facilities in regional communities.
The current federal government promised through its Skilling Australia Fund in the 2017 budget that "the Fund, when matched with State and Territory funding, would support up to 300,000 apprentices, trainees, pre-apprentices and higher level skilled Australians."
The target in the current budget is down to just 80,000.
NSW Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron said the Morrison Coalition government has failed to give TAFE the support it needs in rural communities.
"There are now fewer Australians in training than when they took office. There are 140,000 fewer apprenticeships than when they took office," he said. "Funding to vocational education and training (VET) has been cut by $3 billion since they took office. Scott Morrison, as Treasurer in 2018, cut apprenticeships by $270 million.
"The most recent federal Budget failed to even mention TAFE despite an enrolment loss of 24 per cent due to funding cuts. And despite VET FEE-HELP costing the Australian community more than $5 billion, much of which was handed to dodgy for-profit providers, the Morrison Government continues with an agenda to privatise the VET sector."
A TAFE qualification is as valuable as a university degree in terms of future employment, of that there is no question. But is it so important it needs a $1 billion investment? Only you can decide on May 18.