Victorian TAFE free-for-all – is it beginning of another “Crisis”?

From January 2019, the Victorian Government will cover the cost of 30 TAFE courses and 18 pre-apprenticeship courses. The free courses run for up to two years and include accounting, agriculture, construction, plumbing, engineering and nursing.

The free TAFE courses

Non-apprenticeship courses Apprenticeship pathway courses
Accounting, Certificate IV/Diploma/Advanced Diploma Automotive Air Conditioning Technology, Certificate II
Ageing Support, Certificate IV Automotive Body Repair Technology, Certificate II
Agriculture, Certificate II/III/IV Automotive Servicing Technology, Certificate II
Agriculture (Dairy Production), Certificate III Automotive Vocational Preparation, Certificate II
Allied Health Assistance, Certificate III/IV Construction Pathways, Certificate II
Building and Construction (Building), Certificate IV/Diploma Electrotechnology (Career start), Certificate II
Civil Construction, Certificate III Electrotechnology (Pre-vocational), Certificate II
Community Services, Certificate III/IV/Diploma Engineering Pathways, Certificate II
Concreting, Certificate III Engineering Studies, Certificate II
Construction Waterproofing, Certificate III Furniture Making, Certificate II
Dental Assisting, Certificate II/IV Glass and Glazing, Certificate II
Disability, Certificate IV Horticulture, Certificate II
Education Support, Certificate III/IV Meat Processing (Food services), Certificate II
Engineering, Certificate IV Plumbing (Pre-apprenticeship), Certificate II
Horticulture, Certificate III Printing and Graphic Arts (General), Certificate II
Hospitality, Certificate III Retail Baking Assistance, Certificate II
Individual Support, Certificate III Salon Assistant, Certificate II
Mental Health, Certificate IV Signage and Graphics, Certificate II
Diploma of Nursing
Plumbing and Services, Certificate IV


They will be reviewed each year to ensure they cater to community demand, with students who are already studying not eligible.

“This is the biggest overhaul of TAFE, skills and training in Victoria’s history,” Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said.

Two new education centres will be created, including a precinct at Bendigo Kangan Institute McCrae campus ($59.9 million) and a Federation Training campus at Port of Sale in Gippsland ($25 million) while Federation Training’s Morwell campus will be transformed with $35.5 million.

Interstate and overseas students will be welcome to take advantage of Victoria’s free TAFE courses, but training sector insiders have warned the funding model may backfire.

There will be no residential restriction or other obligations for anyone wanting to study one of the courses, he confirmed on Wednesday.

“We live in a democracy, people have a free right of movement around this country and it’s not going to be this government’s intention to try and put a prohibition on that,” Mr Pallas told 3AW.

“Turn up, get yourself an education (but) the reason they’ll stay here, by the way, is there’s all this work going on, I mean $13.7 billion worth of infrastructure this year.”

He estimated an increased demand of about 30,000 places and said while some of the applicants may be from interstate, the vast majority will be Victorians.

The opposition has slammed the government for not limiting course participation to Victorians.

“(Premier Daniel Andrews’) desperate attempt to beef up student numbers by offering free training to people from overseas and interstate will come at the expense of Victorian students,” opposition training spokeswoman Steph Ryan said.

“This money should be invested to benefit Victorian workers and Victorian jobs.”

The Australian Council for Independent Education and Training said its members are annoyed about missing out on the funds and the Victorian government is risking student outcomes.

The council cited a recent TAFE “crisis” in South Australia where guaranteed funding led to substandard courses and fewer enrolments because of higher overheads.

“We have seen firsthand in South Australia that this type of approach is not in the best interest of the students,” Council chief executive Rod Camm said.

Mr Pallas, Mr Andrews and senior ministers started the post-budget sell on Wednesday with breakfasts, talkback radio, lunches and doorstops.

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