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Free TAFE – How have you found it?

The Free TAFE for Priority Courses initiative was released by the Victorian Labor Government in May 2018, with its commencement in January 2019. Shortly after the Adult, Community and Further Education Board (ACFE) announced a support package to assist Learn Local Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). This support package was designed to assist RTOs such as Cire Services, Ringwood North Neighbourhood House, the Pines and others delivering the priority courses. This was designed to support Learn Locals to:

  • Change their focus and course offerings
  • Develop pathway programs
  • Support existing learners.

This was an interesting change in direction given that all Learn Local RTOs exist to support learners and their community to engage in the local area. Learn Local providers across Victoria offer a range of education and training programs designed to meet local learning needs. Whether you are returning to work after caring for children or a family member, following an injury or a period of unemployment your Learn Local is the place to start.

Learn Local tuition fees are affordable and often very similar to the TAFE charges with the ‘Free initiative’.

Cire Services has worked hard to change its scope of registration in order to develop pathway programs to TAFE. At this stage, there has been no interest from TAFEs to participate or work together offering a pathway for students.

So the question is ‘are Free TAFE Courses free’? No!

This initiative only covers tuition fees, other fees such as study materials, amenities and graduation must still be paid for. Eligible students can access one free TAFE Course in a lifetime. Since the beginning commencement over 19, 000 people have flocked to TAFE to enrol in such a course.

So what has your experience of free TAFE been like? Would you recommend it?

A recent article in the Age newspaper paints a picture of trainer shortage, ballooning class sizes, cancellations of classes and ‘multiple groups of students at different stages of the course being lumped together in one big class’. (Andrew Cowper, the Age, July 2, 2019) ‘Mr Cowper and his classmates have lodged a complaint with the Australian Community Services Association, a professional body which accredits community services courses’, read the full article here.

The issue with such an initiative is that it shifts students from small Learn Local RTOs, where the student support and learning occurs in small classes with a welcoming environment, compared to large public institutions that are often overwhelming. Cire Training offers courses that provide a pathway to employment in the Valley. Eighty-five per cent of our students have gained employment by the time they graduated. Our tuition fees are affordable and we provide support for all our learners, said Anna-Louise Allen, Executive Manager, Education and Training.

Another issue that has arisen from the explosion of enrolments in Free TAFE is access to work placement. This is a very important part of a student’s study in Vocational Education and Training (VET). There is a limit to the number of placement students an organisation can successfully accommodate, as this requires a supervisor’s time and exposure to the right sorts of programs. Students of free TAFE report difficulties in gaining a placement without any support. Anna-Louise stated that ‘Cire Services have experienced a significant increase in the requests for placement opportunities across our services’.  While the Free TAFE program may well have driven huge numbers to TAFE it has been at the expense of quality support and leads to the demise of many Learn Local RTOs. The VRQA reports an ongoing decline in the number of Learn Local RTOs registered within Victoria. ‘This is a cohort that would be a great loss to the community’ said Anna-Louise Allen, Executive Manager, Education and Training.

Cire Training is now taking enrolments in aged care, early childhood hood education and care and education support. Don’t delay getting your qualification when you can train with Cire in 2019 with the goal of gaining employment in 2020. The following courses are available at our Yarra Junction campus, making training accessible for people who live in the Upper Yarra region.

Further information on our courses:
CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support
CHC30113 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support

If you have any questions call 1300 835 235 or email training@cire.org.au