Labor's plan to abolish TAFE fees to address skills shortage

Loftus TAFE students Emma Andrew, Jack Foyle, Julian Carter and Joshua Crawford, with Labor Shadow Minister for TAFE and Skills, Prue Car, Teressa Farhart, and Labor candidate for Heathcote Maryanne Stuart. Picture: Chris Lane
Loftus TAFE students Emma Andrew, Jack Foyle, Julian Carter and Joshua Crawford, with Labor Shadow Minister for TAFE and Skills, Prue Car, Teressa Farhart, and Labor candidate for Heathcote Maryanne Stuart. Picture: Chris Lane

The opposition wants to make TAFE courses free for more than 600,000 certificate level places in skill shortage courses across the next decade.

Starting with child care, disability, aged care, construction, plumbing, and electrical trades, the plan's aim to help people people to find jobs in industries where there is a strong demand for workers.

It is an idea that Labor says will make TAFE accessible to all - whether they are school leavers, people re-skilling, or changing careers.

The pre-election push was announced at Loftus TAFE on Friday. Labor says it's a direct response to the "gutting" of the TAFE system by the Berejiklian Liberal and National government, where they say job losses and fewer student enrolments including apprentices and trainees have fallen victim. 

NSW Shadow Minister for TAFE and Skills Prue Car says the plan is a common-sense way to connect eager workers with good jobs. Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, applauds the announcement, saying it will change lives in Sutherland Shire for young people and those looking to retrain.

“Free TAFE is the ultimate jobs plan. It will deliver the skilled workforce of the future and revitalise the vocational education system after eight years of neglect," she said.

By 2023, it is expected there will be 85,000 more jobs in the health care and social assistance sectors in NSW compared to 2018; and 41,000 more jobs in the construction industry.

But in the 2018 budget, the Berejiklian government stated it would pour $285 million across six years for 100,000 apprenticeships with zero fees. This aims to improve the uptake of workers in skills shortage areas including construction, and other key industries such as automotive and hospitality.

This financial year the state government will spend $2.1 billion on tertiary, technical and further education, which includes vocational training.

Just last week it was also revealed that NSW had the lowest unemployment rate on record, according to the latest jobs data from the ABS.

The state’s unemployment rate fell a further 0.4 per cent to 3.9 per cent for January 2019, the lowest since monthly records began in February 1978.

It means NSW remains well below the national unemployment rate of 5 per cent and well ahead of other states.

Youth unemployment rate is the lowest, and more than two percentage points below the rest of Australia. Female workers drove the strong labour force result, with 42,700 jobs added for the month and the female unemployment rate dropping to a record low of 3.7 per cent.

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