Mums finding a new career or pursuing a long-held dream are among hundreds of students to have signed up for free TAFE courses at Fed Uni.
Among the first intake of students in the free pre-apprenticeship Certificate II in Electrotechnology course are Kelly Golder, Erin Nielsen and Lisa Hughes who between them have six children and who have all held a long-term interest in becoming an electrician.
“I’ve been a mum for the past 16 years and doing catering and hospitality jobs in between caring for the kids, but now I’m turning 40 I wanted a proper career and no more hospitality work,” said Ms Hughes said.
“Becoming an electrician is something I’ve thought about for a long time, but being female and it being a male trade I didn’t pursue it, but now is a different time so I’m giving it a go … it was something I enjoyed at school and whenever I think of trade for me it’s always electrician.”
Ms Hughes started her course this week alongside Holly Harper, a journalist and author looking to do something “more practical”, and school-leaver Jazmin Fazzolari.
“I wanted something with more career security and something in which you use your head as well as your hands,” Ms Harper said.
The women are among more than 500 students to have enrolled for one of the 23 free TAFE courses offered through Fed Uni TAFE.
Federation University vice chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett said the most popular free course was the Diploma of Nursing, but there were also strong enrolments in welfare and disability, horticulture and engineering courses.
The rapid rise in enrolments, the result of the state government’s election promise of free TAFE courses in priority areas during last year’s state election, has also seen a big increase in staffing levels at Fed Uni.
”We have already recruited dozens of new staff and we are still hiring,” Prof Barlett said.
“As numbers grow we are going to have to make sure our infrastructure matches that increased demand and step up recruitment of staff while looking at appropriate facilities needed to cope with the increased demand,” she said.
Professor Bartlett said it was particularly pleasing to see the number of women who have taken up courses, and the cross section of ages and experiences they come from.
“These free courses are encouraging women, and matured aged women, to try something they perhaps always wanted to do but never had the opportunity. They are here to reskill or trying to build new careers for themselves.”
On Monday, which was International Day of Women in Science, state higher education minister Gayle Tierney visited Fed Uni TAFE to welcome the new students.
“These free TAFE courses align to jobs that are available in the local community and across the state,” Ms Tierney said.
“People come from all walks of life and are now getting the chance, now there isn’t a financial barrier, to attain the skills needed for the jobs that are available.”
She hoped the strong uptake of free TAFE courses in regional areas would result in more skilled employees staying within regional communities.
“We would love to keep people in their home town and would hope a lot do stay in that local economy once they finish training and get jobs locally. There’s a greater chance young people will stay in town, which is really important given we have seen a drain of young people leaving regional cities and smaller towns to move elsewhere – hopefully this will reverse that trend.”
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