The decade we have just left behind has been described as Australia's era of lost opportunities and this was experienced in no greater degree of adversity than by TAFE NSW.
Al Svirskis, of Mount Druitt, wrote early last month of his experiences, first as a TAFE part-time teacher in 1975 until his retirement in 2004 and as a teachers' representative on various restructuring committees initiated by highly-paid consultants on the gravy train. Since then other teachers have aired their criticisms of the TAFE system.
If this current federal government ever gets around to a further education national development plan that actually involves listening to those in the industry, we might get a new national technical training institution, with a steady supply of technically proficient, even scientific, employees.
Current and former TAFE teachers have told me that some states and the ACT do technical training well.
Others like NSW, as Svirskis and his fellow teachers of many years' experience say, have seen consultant-based schemes that end up costing jobs, involve disruption and waste - particularly the $6.4 million spent on consultants and the $500 million that was willfully spent on private non-TAFE providers. The latter yet again proving that there are some things that greedy private operators should not be invited to operate in place of established public service projects and providers.
Now, here's the sobering observation, indeed fact, by Sandra Burke of North Sydney: "The reduction in apprenticeships and trade courses at TAFE colleges by various governments over past years, with the idea that everyone should be doing university courses, has resulted in an oversupply of university graduates and shortage of skilled workers".
Svirskis argues: "It would all be hilarious, except for the damage to careers, waste of taxpayers' money - and most importantly - damage to students seeking to develop skills for their own future, and that of the economy".
There is relief in sight, or there should be if Prime Minister Scott Morrison is prepared to listen and take advice. These are traits he has shown little inclination for. Note, for example, his response to Anthony Albanese's suggestion of an urgent meeting of federal, state and emergency crisis leaders to deal with the bushfire situation.
Just two days before the decade known as "the handbrake on progress" was coming to a close, but leadership was still the buzz word, The Sydney Morning Herald published a story with the heading, "New wave of leadership to engineer our science goals", based on a press conference called by Karen Andrews, who was appointed by Morrison as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.
It was Andrews' aim to welcome three women to science leadership roles within government - Cathy Foley as CSIRO chief scientist, Tanya Monro as defence chief scientist and Sarah Pearson as DFAT chief scientist and chief innovation officer.
Andrews has made it clear that she wants to see more women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and she has stressed that 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations will need these skills.
Andrews has made it clear that she wants to see more women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
It is encouraging that Andrews is a regional Australia person, raised in Townsville, a graduate in mechanical engineering, and has worked in power stations and chemical and petrochemical sites around Australia. The PM should have an urgent look at incorporating TAFE as a red-hot new national identity, and also lift Andrews' ministerial ranking from 17th in the 42-person inner and outer cabinet.
If we are ever to get this country rolling again in the manner that Robert Menzies and John McEwen achieved with considerable input by skilled migrants, then we also must increase out current level of skilled workers.
In recent months there have been media stories highlighting the on-going shortage of professionals and tradespeople in regional Australia, especially medicine and engineering. To this end, Andrews is encouraging young women finishing school and contemplating their futures "to look at all of the career options".
What makes Andrews appealing in this nation's overdue need for government-led project restructure, is that she is a strong supporter of the not-for-profit community sector. Bring her on, Prime Minister!