The Rockliff-Ferguson government’s short-term funding extension for a 44-year-old alternative to traditional education is a welcome reprieve but needs to go much further to provide certainty for students and staff.
After pressure from Labor Member for Bass Michelle O’Byrne, the government has extended funding until the end of the year for the Launceston-based Studentworks program, which offers high school students industrial workshop programs and experience.
But the extension only provides certainty for six months, with an ongoing cloud over the program’s long-term future.
Studentworks started operations in 1973 as a work experience program and started running vocational programs for year nine and 10 students from northern high schools in 1978.
The program targets students who are disengaged in traditional school environments, offering workshop and catering experience so they can gain valuable vocational skills.
It has supported many Tasmanian students on career pathways, funding is only required for a handful of teacher positions and there is no solid reason for the government to cancel funding.
It beggars belief that, at a time when Tasmania’s educational outcomes are at rock bottom, the government would even consider withdrawing funding for a program that offers a pathway for students to reengage with learning and transition to employment opportunities.
Minister Roger Jaensch needs to go beyond this short-term commitment and offer real certainty for the program – and the kids who benefit from it – so they can go on to rewarding careers.
Josh Willie MLC
Shadow Minister for Education and Early Years