Fee-free TAFE extended to close more skills gaps in the Northern Territory

Fee-free TAFE at Charles Darwin University (CDU) offers more than 60 courses - and the chance to help the local workforce's skills shortage.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Fee-free TAFE returns to Charles Darwin University (CDU), with more than 60 courses offered to help the Northern Territory have the skilled workforce it needs.

The initiative is a partnership with the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments and is designed to enhance the skills of the local workforce and alleviate the financial stress of cost-of-living pressures.

Vocational education and training provide practical, transferable skills, work experience and the foundations towards a solid career.

Between 2024-2026, Territorians will have access to an additional 2,200 free TAFE training placements, with vocational education and training providing practical skills, work experience and the foundations towards a solid career.

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CDU TAFE courses will span various sectors, including aged care, agriculture, construction, early childhood education, hospitality and tourism.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said the diversity of courses available will enhance the University’s supportive career pathways.

“Fee-free places gave CDU TAFE a great boost after its launch last year,” Professor Bowman says.

“It is promising to see the fee-free TAFE program expand and focus on supporting courses to help address skills shortages in the Territory, such as aged care, childcare and the primary industries. We look forward to seeing the impact of fee-free TAFE places for this year. Some of these students may be inspired to expand their knowledge through degree education and others will make an immediate difference to the Northern Territory’s available skills base.”

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Overcoming financial barriers sees enrolment in agriculture studies grow

In 2023, 600 students from across the NT were enrolled in fee-free TAFE courses at CDU, with the most common industries studied being agriculture, business, and the care sector.

To date, about 250 students have completed, and more than 300 students are continuing their programs.

NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler says fee-free TAFE removes financial barriers for Territorians wanting to undertake further study, upskill or reskill.

“The Territory Labor Government will always invest in programs which save Territorians money, and ease cost-of-living pressures, while also breaking the cycle of poverty, by providing quality education opportunities.” Ms Lawler says.

“This initiative also ensures that businesses have the workforce that they need now and into the future and help fill critical skill shortages by upskilling Territorians.”

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Through fee-free TAFE courses, students can engage in nationally accredited diploma, certificate, or short courses, to give them better opportunities to access positions in rapidly growing industries.

NT Minister for Business, Jobs and Training Joel Bowden said the program prioritises students who may face barriers in accessing VET courses.

“Free TAFE prioritises training for students who may face barriers accessing VET courses including First Nations Australians, unpaid carers, women facing economic insecurity, people with a disability, young people and people who are out of work and may be receiving income support payments,” Mr Bowden says.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live