• Refrigeration and air conditioning technician.
    Refrigeration and air conditioning technician.

The Victorian government has announced 62,800 extra Fee-Free TAFE places in areas of high demand such as refrigeration and air conditioning.

It follows an announcement by the federal minister for skills and training, Brendan O’Connor that the Commonwealth has made available $107 million in funding to provide greater access to training in sectors hardest hit by Australia’s skills shortage.

Fee-Free TAFE supports training in areas of high demand and Victoria has more than 143 occupations dealing with shortages.

The free training push of 2024 will target sectors facing the biggest workforce challenges.  Fee-Free TAFE has been successful for example, it attracted a record 33,600 Victorian enrolments since the start of 2023.

Premier Jacinta Allan said Free TAFE has been a game-changer across Victoria, with more than 152,000 students saving more than $384 million in tuition fees since the program began in 2019.

The funding for Fee-Free TAFE is in addition to federal funding through the National Skills Agreement (NSA) of up to $3.1 billion for Victoria.

Set to begin in January 2024, the landmark five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA) was developed under principles agreed by National Cabinet to embed nationwide cooperation and strategic investment across Australia’s TAFE and training sector.

“We saved TAFE in Victoria, rebuilt a crumbling vocational education sector and then strengthened it with Free TAFE – now we’re giving even more Victorians the chance to get great skills for a great job,” Allan said.

Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, said Australia is making progress on easing the skills shortage since the pandemic.

“Fee-Free TAFE is the spark that is igniting a renewed sense of optimism and potential in our vocational education and training sector and I’m looking forward to building on our success,” he said.

“When we came into government last year, the OECD said that Australia had the second highest labour shortage per capita among the OECD.

“The 2022 Skills Priority list revealed the number of occupations suffering skills shortages had almost doubled, jumping from 153 occupations in 2021 to 286.”

Out of the top 20 occupations in demand nationally, almost half have direct VET pathways including six occupations in the top 10.

Earlier this year the government expanded the Priority List from 77 to 111 allowing more apprentices to get direct payments of up to $5,000.