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Albanese Government Achieves Target of Fee-Free TAFE Program Six Months Ahead of Schedule

Over 214,300 fee-free TAFE places were filled six months earlier than anticipated after the Albanese government announced the plan to retrain or upskill workers.

New figures show fee-free TAFE enrolments grew past the initial 180,000 target in the first six months with an extra 35,000 places.

Fee-free TAFE and VET places were a commitment from the Jobs and Skills Summit and held in partnership with the state and territory governments.

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the result was terrific.

“Fee-free training offers a huge cost of living relief for students, grows the recruitment pool for businesses, and eases the skills shortages that hold our economy back,” he said in a statement.

According to the data, courses across health care, aged care, and disability care had 23.8 percent of total enrolments, with more than 51,000 students enrolled.

Meanwhile, enrolments were also strong across other priority sectors, with construction attracting 20,987 enrolments (9.8 percent), technology and digital attracting 16,768 enrolments (7.8 percent), and early childhood education and care attracting 11,868 enrolments (5.5 percent).

Women comprised the majority (60.2 percent) of enrolments, with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification.

Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor said the results are an encouraging sign Australia is making post-pandemic progress by easing skills shortages that continue to affect many areas of the economy.

Mr. O’Connor said the shortages affect up to “31 percent of occupations, according to the 2022 Skills Priority List.”

Demographics showed a major uptake of fee-free TAFE from 50,849 job seekers (23.7 percent), 15,269 people with disabilities (7.1 percent), and 6,845 Indigenous Australians (3.2 percent).

While fixing skills shortages, fee-free TAFE saved students thousands of dollars and helped reduce cost of living pressures, according to a joint release from Education Minister Jason Clare and Mr. O’Connor.

In Victoria, students undertaking a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care with a fee-free TAFE program saved up to $8,700.

The release said the program provided cost-of-living relief to around 1.2 million Australian families while providing economic security benefits for women.

Mr. O’Connor said the government increased access and reduced training cost barriers for Victoria’s most in-demand jobs to ensure a pipeline of workers to these critical roles.

“Almost 40 percent of national job ads for early childhood teachers are in Victoria, and education aides are in shortage in Victoria even though they’re not in shortage nationally,” he said.

The Albanese government invested in early childhood education and care to ensure Australian children can access the educational and health benefits of early years learning—no matter their background or family circumstances.

Minister for Early Education Anne Aly said the “first five years are the most transformational time in a child’s life. Our more affordable early learning reforms are only possible with a sustainable early childhood education workforce.”

She said while childhood education is a good example of an industry suitable to women, more affordable early childhood education and care ensure “everyone can access quality education and training no matter their background.”

The Albanese government expects to announce the next tranche of fee-free training places for 2024 in the coming weeks.

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