Even with government training funds for private colleges, Victoria’s training market has slumped.

Government subsidised enrolments and TAFE enrolments both fell about 7 per cent between January and March, compared with the same period last year, according to the latest quarterly report from Victoria’s education department.

It is the first downturn in figures since government-funded enrolments to private institutions were introduced in 2009, 2012 saw quarterly increases from 14 to 40 per cent. Some observers have seen the drop coming, after the government cut funding rates for many popular courses at the end of 2012.

The recent report however blames economic factors and federal policies for much of the decline, it says apprenticeship numbers were affected by the construction sector’s “challenging” year, while traineeships slumped largely because of cuts to federal incentive payments for existing workers.

The Opposition skills spokesman Steve Herbert has said, “Higher fees are starting to bite, and students are turning away from TAFE. The government needs to rethink its strategy”.