Free TAFE success for regional centres

By Shepparton News

A new intake of students will start at Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE next week under the Free TAFE program.

GOTAFE chief executive Travis Heeney said the program had led to increased enrolments and opportunities for students who previously would have been unable to study.

Mr Heeney said the program had been a huge success for GOTAFE and the region.

‘‘For many potential students in our region, the barriers to education are quite significant because they either cannot afford to pay for a course or they can’t afford the cost of travelling to another location to study,’’ he said.

‘‘In an area with some of the state’s highest youth unemployment rates, our challenge is to improve the skills and lives of our regional population.

‘‘To do that we must remove as many barriers to education as possible and Free TAFE is playing a major role.’’

More than 950 students have enrolled in more than 40 Free TAFE courses at GOTAFE, with some courses, including nursing, already reaching capacity and extra classes have been introduced.

Mr Heeney said before Free TAFE, GOTAFE had struggled to get enough enrolments in some courses such as accounting. Other courses, such as cyber security, could now be offered.

Mr Heeney said 20 new trainers had been employed, with many existing trainers being unskilled to deliver new courses.

‘‘By training local people we improve the likelihood of them staying in the region, which has economic and social benefits for the area and the community,’’ he said.

‘‘We are determined that every student who passes through our doors will be provided with real-world experiences leading to great careers, and partnerships with regional providers are vital.’’

He praised the strong partnerships with regional providers, including Benalla Health, Goulburn Valley Health and Goulburn Options Disability Services for the support.

Natalie Campbell is an RMIT journalism student on work placement at The News.