Shire matters with Mark Speakman: Study sessions skyrocket as students flock to fee-free courses

The spread of coronavirus has had an immense impact on people's lives. It's involved the swift curtailing of many basic freedoms. Freedom of movement, for instance, was no longer possible as we were asked to remain indoors and stay away from one another to avoid transmission.

We were soon swamped with activities to adopt while in lockdown - improve your cooking, do yoga lessons, learn a language, or play an instrument.

It turns out more than 100,000 people across NSW were actually enrolling to study.

With 21 fee-free courses on offer as part of a NSW Government and TAFE NSW program, thousands of people have been taking this unique opportunity to upskill. Almost half of the students are studying with TAFE NSW for the first time.

Medical administration and team leadership have been the most popular, but there's more on offer including coding and other computer courses as well as practical business courses.

No matter your vocation, TAFE NSW equips students with practical knowledge and essential skills to begin their career; learn something to embark on a new job path; or upskill to land a promotion in their industry of choice.

TAFE NSW is a trusted institution that's been supporting and responding to the needs of the State's workforce for well over a century. The onset of COVID-19 has been no different, with students in nursing and aged care examples of the vital frontline workforce training at TAFE NSW.

As the next phase of eased restrictions begins this week, we still face enormous economic and social challenges in the months ahead.

But this program is helping thousands of people, whether you're looking for a new job or working hard to maintain your career - all crucial efforts as we continue to chart a path for recovery.