13 April 2024

Record TAFE enrolments in NSW as fee-free target smashed

| Jarryd Rowley
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State and Federal Ministers visiting TAFE NSW

A staggering 182,124 people enrolled at TAFE last year as part of the State and Federal governments’ fee-free scheme. Photo: Supplied.

The NSW Government revealed this week that more than 180,000 people enrolled in TAFE for its fee-free trial in 2023.

The Fee-Free TAFE setup was part of a scheme introduced by the State and Federal governments to prioritise the enrollment of students in underrepresented fields with skills shortages while also removing financial barriers for those sitting on the fence.

The ‘care’ sector saw the most enrollments in 2023 with more than 34,000 people enrolling.

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Priority groups were strongly represented, with the enrolment of 62,925 job seekers, nearly 10,000 people with disability and more than 15,154 First Nations people.

Female enrolments totalled 118,620 and students from regional and remote areas numbered more than 70,000.

The recorded savings for students adds to thousands of dollars, with a student studying to become an early childhood educator or undertaking a Certificate III in School-Based Education and Support not needing to find $1600 in course fees; similarly, someone undertaking a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping wouldn’t need to pay almost $2000 in course fees.

Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said Fee-Free TAFE had transformed the lives of students from diverse backgrounds right across NSW, at the same time making sure there was a strong pipeline of workers to fill in-demand jobs.

“The initiative has helped ease cost-of-living pressures for students and is helping respond to the worst skills crisis we have experienced in 50 years,” he said.

“Fee-Free TAFE is helping people in NSW, and across Australia, to acquire skills to ensure they have meaningful work, well-paid jobs and career progression.”

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Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan shared the sentiment, stating that Fee-Free TAFE was targeted at increasing workforce participation of priority groups and helping people get the skills they needed for the jobs they wanted.

“We are committed to tackling the skills shortages, by supporting students with free training opportunities who can then enter the workforce in highly paid, highly skilled jobs,” he said.

“The Fee-Free TAFE program highlights the State and Federal governments’ commitment to strengthening the VET system and placing TAFE at the heart of vocational delivery across New South Wales and Australia.”

The Federal Government has announced it will be providing a further $414.1 million over 2024 – 2026 to states and territories to fund the delivery of at least another 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places.

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