Thousands of Victorians are signing up for Free TAFE courses to improve their employability in a post COVID-19 world.
They’re taking advantage of the Victorian Government’s Free TAFE for Priority Courses program. The scheme launched in 2019 and was expanded in June this year by an additional 10,000 places.
The program funds studies for Victoria’s future high-demand jobs.
“We’re giving Victorians workers and industry the skills they need to help us rebuild from coronavirus,” said Gayle Tierney, Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education.
Students across Victoria are snapping up the Free TAFE courses. Enrolments at TAFEs almost doubled in the first year, particularly among women, young people and mature-aged students.
Recently, the government added $163 million to its initial $172 million investment in the scheme. The latest courses to be added to the list include qualifications in health, mental health, the NDIS and construction.
The expansion to the Free TAFE program will come as a lifeline to many whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic.
Recent data from Seek shows that 8 out of 10 people have had their work impacted by COVID-19.
Speaking to the true depths of the crisis, the same research also shows 1 out of 4 people are working fewer hours.
Current unemployment rates are particularly grim for casual and contract workers, often in the younger age group. Of casual workers, 1 out of 3 have lost their jobs and 1 out of 5 contractors have lost their jobs since COVID-19.
Despite the fallout from the pandemic, we are seeing some positive trends.
The Seek research shows some industries have a growing demand for workers. These include healthcare, transport and IT.
And according to government predictions, job growth is forecast for health, construction, education and professional, scientific and technical services.
For workers who’ve lost jobs due to COVID-19, this could be the perfect time to retrain or upskill.
Through opportunities like the Free TAFE program, people can more easily shift from weakening industries to in-demand ones.
When you sign up for one of the Free TAFE courses, the government pays your whole tuition fees, which makes up the bulk of your fees.
You may have to cover some extra fees yourself, like student services and materials, but these won’t break the bank.
To be eligible for a Free TAFE course, you need to meet one of two conditions. You have to be under 20 years old or enrol in a course at a higher level than your current qualifications.
The free courses include about 30 non apprenticeship courses and 20 pathway-to-apprenticeship courses.
Students who’ve enrolled in priority courses have had great success in their careers. Take Bea Hennessey, who did a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance at Box Hill Institute.
“It was a perfect fit for me. After the first semester, I was ready to start my clinical placement at the Austin Hospital,” said Bea.
“About two months after I completed my certificate, I’d been offered two positions there!”
Like Bea, Paul Yao took a leap forward in his building and construction career. After completing his certificate and diploma at Box Hill Institute, Paul started his own business and did a master’s degree.
“My experience at Box Hill was so positive. Just take one step at a time. You can never imagine where learning will take you,” said Paul.
“People ask if they should continue their studies. I always say, why not? Everything makes more sense when you study. I never imagined I’d be where I am when I first started.”
Box Hill Institute is a Victorian TAFE with a track record of placing students in jobs, reporting 78% of alumni get jobs within the first 6 months of graduating.
Box Hill Institute also helps students into jobs through its Skills and Jobs Centres, where career advisors help students hunt for jobs and submit applications.
Box Hill Institute offers a number of the Free TAFE courses and many other government subsidised courses. To name just a few, courses span across health, nursing, education, horticulture, hospitality, cyber security and construction.
In addition to Free TAFE courses, the government subsidises another 1,000 courses. While these pay-outs don’t cover the whole tuition, they do help with a good chunk of the course fees. Concessions are also available.