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Free Tafe Successful

Free Tafe Successful

Great for the South West Region

South West TAFE says the Victorian Government’s free TAFE initiative has been good for the region, creating new jobs and opportunities.

In response to negative publicity in metropolitan media about the roll-out of the system, South West TAFE CEO Mark Fidge said the benefits far outweighed any negatives.

“We believe it has been hugely successful for our region and we’re looking forward to more growth next year,” Mr Fidge said.

Student numbers in government-funded programs have increased to almost 3000, up from 2100 last year and South West TAFE has employed 60-70 new staff to manage the extra demand.

Mr Fidge said South West TAFE had been able to cope by carefully managing student numbers, employing new industry-experienced teachers and partnering with like-minded organisations to provide facilities and placement options for students.

“There are a lot of people in our region benefitting from the opportunities of free TAFE and we have been able to maintain our high standards and manage the influx,” he said.

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There have been media reports that the flood of students state-wide has meant a shortage of teachers, overcrowded classes and fewer industry placements.
However, Mr Fidge said there had been few problems with the roll-out of free TAFE in south-west Victoria.

Almost all classes have less than 25 students, with restrictions in some cases placed to prevent over-crowding or risk placement concerns. In some cases additional support staff have been added to assist students.

Overall there are about 300 potential students ready for mid-year or 2020 courses particularly in Accounting / bookkeeping and Individual Support
“If we were able to access more teachers, we could grow further and we have a new recruitment campaign going for next year,” Mr Fidge said.

“There are great opportunities for people in the community to do teaching qualifications to enable us to bring more students into classes next year. We’re starting to recruit across the board, particularly for health-related courses and for a new free course in Early Childhood Development.”

Mr Fidge said TAFE worked with industry partners to understand demand. “It is important we make sure all our students get a job or go to further education. We want to meet demand without over-supply,” he said.

He added that partnering with Deakin University exposed students to university pathways and we hope will result in extra enrolments at the Deakin Warrnambool campus in 2020.

South West TAFE’s Skills and Jobs Centre works with prospective students to ensure they enrol in the right courses resulting in better retention and completion rates..

Mr Fidge said students still have the same access to industry placements. “We have expectations and standards to maintain the quality of our programs, including minimum practical hours, and that hasn’t changed. We make sure all graduates are well prepared and ready to go into the workforce.”

Use of facilities has increased across all campuses. “We’re seeing a hive of activity with the increase in student numbers and that creates a better atmosphere,” Mr Fidge said.

South West TAFE moved into new premises in Colac and will look at additional facilities, if required, to accommodate growth.

South West TAFE has also introduced weekend and evening courses to create more flexibility for people working full time across all campuses.

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