Free TAFE courses are proving so popular, Victorian Training, Skills and Higher Education Minister Gayle Tierney travelled to the Shepparton yesterday to announce a further $5.6million in funding for the region.
The boost comes on the back a large expansion in job options for skilled workers, such as nursing at Goulburn Valley Health.
Nursing and midwifery education director Cathy Scott said the GV Health redevelopment would create hundreds of new nursing positions.
‘‘We have the redevelopment happening, there will be an opportunity for 600 jobs overall and 400 of them will be nursing,’’ she said.
With a shortage of qualified nurses across the state showing in new data Seek.com.au released on Monday, experts believe it is a great time to enter the profession.
And with the prospect of studying a free diploma locally, an attractive pipeline from training to employment is drawing in large numbers of new students.
Second-year Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE nursing students Janie Harwood and Aimee Stanya missed out on the new free positions, but do not regret entering the diploma course.
They will carry a $24000 HECS debt, but neither said they felt bitter on missing out.
The duo plans on continuing their studies at La Trobe University, where they can upgrade their studies to a full bachelor degree.
Ms Stanya said she was enjoying studying at the Shepparton TAFE campus.
‘‘I didn’t know what to expect when I first came here. It’s such a good learning environment. The teachers want to help you. They want you to pass,’’ she said.
Ms Harwood, a mother-of-two, said the flexible study options suited her as a parent and she encouraged anyone to consider becoming a nurse to jump in while it was free.
‘‘We need nurses, it’s rewarding, and you can do it for free,’’ she said.
Ms Tierney said regions such as Shepparton had been targeted with the free TAFE courses because of skilled labour demand.
‘‘We decided that there needed to be a number of areas that warranted attention, where there’s been shortages and we’ve known there’s been a shortage for some time, so this is one way we can address that,’’ she said.
‘‘The diploma of nursing is the second most popular in the state.’’
GOTAFE chief executive Travis Heeney said nursing was a great choice of study considering the number of employment opportunities available, the diversity of roles and the ability to go onto further tertiary studies at partner institutions such as La Trobe University.
‘‘We’ve got significant demand in the health system up here, it’s one of the largest industries in the region, so I think that coupled with the fact that nursing is on the free TAFE list, it’s a fantastic time for students to get in touch and enrol,’’ he said.
The institute takes its next enrolment of nurses in second semester, but a wide range of other subjects are available on the free course list, including baking, dental assistance, cabinet making, engineering fabrication and health services.
A new course in cyber-security is also proving popular.