Australian Government invests over $28m in Fee-Free TAFE & VET initiative in 2024

Albanese and Malinauskas Governments have announced a major expansion of Fee-Free TAFE and VET courses beginning January 2024.

In a significant move to address skills shortages and enhance training opportunities for South Australians, the Albanese and Malinauskas Governments have announced a major expansion of Fee-Free TAFE and VET courses beginning January 2024. This collaborative effort between the Commonwealth and South Australian governments is a response to the critical need for skilled workers in various industries, in particular nursing, health care and education.

The Commonwealth Government’s investment exceeding $28 million will introduce 15,000 additional Fee-Free vocational education and training places from 2024. This initiative builds on the success of Fee-Free TAFE in the current year and targets key areas of skill shortage, including early childhood education, health care, aged and disability care, technology and digital skills, hospitality and tourism, construction, agriculture, and the defence industry.

The agreement aims to bolster workforce participation among priority groups such as First Nations Australians, young people aged 17-24, individuals out of work or on income support, unpaid carers, women in non-traditional fields, people with disabilities, and certain visa holders.

South Australia has witnessed a strong uptake of Fee-Free places, particularly in the Care sector, Construction, Technology and Digital sector, and Hospitality and Tourism. This trend aligns with the industries identified as priority areas needing skilled personnel.

With the support of this initiative, students in South Australia studying a Diploma of Nursing could save nearly $15,500, while those studying a Diploma of Community Services could save around $8,000.

The Fee-Free TAFE initiative’s first year has been remarkably successful, surpassing its 180,000-enrolment target by nearly 40,000, reaching nearly 215,000 enrolments. South Australia contributed approximately 12,500 students to this figure. The initiative has provided significant financial savings to students and opened doors to post-secondary education for many who might not have had the opportunity otherwise.

Looking ahead, the Albanese government is set to fund an additional 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places nationwide from next year, reinforcing the role of Fee-Free TAFE in addressing skill gaps and supporting individuals into stable, well-paying jobs. It’s estimated that nine out of ten future jobs will require post-secondary education, with half necessitating vocational training.

Fee-Free TAFE and VET are expected to significantly benefit the economy and provide broader access to secure and rewarding careers for Australians. In 2023, over 100 courses, including various qualifications and skill sets, have been available under the Fee-Free training program in South Australia, accessible through TAFE SA and other training providers.

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor highlighted the impact of this collaboration.

‘This is what genuine collaboration and partnership can achieve – real results for everyday Australians, for industry and the economy.’

‘Fee-Free TAFE and VET has been such a success that we’re committing a further $415 million to deliver an additional 300,000 places nationally beginning next year’, said O’Connor.

‘A total of 15,000 of the additional Fee-Free TAFE VET places will be delivered in South Australia.’

O’Connor also pointed out the broader benefits, stating, ‘Fee-Free training offers a huge cost of living relief for South Australian students, grows the recruitment pool for businesses and eases the skills shortages that hold our economy back.’

South Australian Minister for Education, Training and Skills, the Hon. Blair Boyer, also commented on the initiative’s significance. ‘Fee-Free TAFE is such an important initiative to break down barriers to education and training and make courses more accessible to people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.’

‘It has been a game-changer for South Australians seeking to get the skills they need for a rewarding career – and this additional investment in skills is one of the most significant in our State’s history’, says Boyer.

He concluded by outlining the alignment of the courses with the state’s needs. ‘We promised South Australians we would rebuild TAFE SA, and that’s exactly what we are doing with this investment in high-quality training. Courses offered through Fee-Free TAFE directly align with areas where we need thousands more highly trained workers, including for the huge projects we will be delivering as a State such as AUKUS, three-year-old preschool and the hydrogen plant.’

For further information on courses and eligibility, click here.

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