• Silver medal winner, Bailey Loenneker.
    Silver medal winner, Bailey Loenneker.

More than 500 vocational students took part in the national WorldSkills competition held in Melbourne in August.

Tradespeople, apprentices, and trainees participated in the event competing across 55 skills including refrigeration and air conditioning, heating and plumbing.

Federal Minister for Skills & Training Brendan O’Connor, opened the event and took the opportunity to underline the importance of trades.

“For a long time, we have placed university study as superior to VET education, and we’re paying the price for that,” he said.

“That price is the most significant skills shortage in recent memory.”

The gold medal for refrigeration and air conditioning went to Floyd Lucas-Baxter (ACT), with the silver going to Bailey Loenneker (QLD) and the bronze medal went to Blake Harris (VIC)..

The federal government’s plan to train, retrain or upskill Australians and tackle skills shortages is showing results with all 180,000 Fee-Free places filled within six months.

New figures show Fee-Free TAFE enrolments have hit more than 214,300 in the first six months – six months earlier than anticipated and nearly 35,000 places more than expected.

Women make up the majority (60.2 per cent) of enrolments, with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification under the program.

The government expects to announce the next tranche of Fee-Free training places for 2024 in coming weeks. 

Pending negotiations with states and territories, the Commonwealth will invest more than $400 million to provide another ¬ 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places from 2024.