Fee-free university preparatory courses – mixed policy agendas – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Fee-free university preparatory courses – mixed policy agendas – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

The Federal budget delivered two weeks ago had many great components for both VET and higher education. TDA reported on these initiatives in the Newsletter on Monday 20 May. The one announcement we did not detail was that of the proposed fee-free university places.

As per the Department of Education’s website:

“FEE-FREE Uni Ready courses provide students with preparatory studies to gain the skills they need to get into university, without being out of pocket. … Funding for additional student places will increase the number of students taking part in these courses by 40 per cent by 2030 and double the number students by 2040. By 2030 it is estimated that around 30,000 students will be studying in FEE-FREE Uni Ready courses each year.”

Many years ago, I began my career in TAFE teaching Diploma students who had missed out on getting into university. These were the days before demand driven funding at university and before training packages. Many of the students I taught went onto university. They gained a full year of credit for their VET Diploma towards their bachelor degree and many ended up with Distinctions and High Distinctions in their final two years.

While it is not that easy now to move from a unit of competency-based diploma to get a year’s credit at university, the policy of expanding fee-free university preparatory courses competes with our goal of attracting more people into vocational education and training. Many of these possible students would be best enrolling in a Certificate IV or Diploma at TAFE and exiting with skills that will be important for their career and life opportunities.

The nature of the learning environment at TAFE is such that we do develop underrepresented groups of potential university students very effectively. The practical components in VET qualifications create multi-skilled and knowledgeable people.

The policy agendas are mixed and there is key opportunity being missed. At one end of the spectrum there is a policy agenda that focuses on VET. For example, a Future Made in Australia, where the need for highly skilled VET graduates has never been more acute. And at the other end we are encouraging students to go to fee-free university places.

Perhaps the fee-free university funding could be expanded to include TAFE. This could be the injection that is needed for the budget announcement of self-accredited TAFE courses at AQF5. These courses could be developed in a way that was purpose built for a pathway to university, something that does not exist now.

TDA is completely supportive of the government’s agenda to open opportunities for underrepresented groups to higher education and of the need to grow the number of people with a higher qualification. However, it would be good to think laterally about how best to achieve the goal of preparing students for university. Such lateral thinking might include students also gaining a TAFE qualification as part of the process.

Skillaroos make impressive start ahead of world competition

Australia’s Skillaroos have tested themselves against international competition at the 2024 WorldSkills Australia Global Skills Challenge – an event designed to simulate the conditions of the WorldSkills competition in France in September.

The Australian team put in a strong performance that saw them awarded seven gold medals and finishing second in the overall medal tally.

A total of 30 skills were assessed, covering all WorldSkills categories, with events held across several Melbourne TAFE campuses. There were 138 competitors from 17 countries taking part in the three-day event.

Australia’s 33 Skillaroos competed, with 15 receiving medals for their outstanding efforts. The team’s performance put it second place in the overall medal tally, sitting just behind Chinese Tapei (16 medals) and China (8 medals).

Ethan Everett, from Illawarra, NSW was awarded Australia’s Best in Nation for his standout performance in Bricklaying.

First Nations Focus 2024 – story collection

Today we are releasing two more stories as a part of First Nations Focus 2024 – story collection, to highlight the great work of individuals and teams happening nationwide.

Anita builds connection through language

TAFE NSW Aboriginal Learner Support Officer Anita Brunhuber is passionate about keeping the Dhurga language alive for future generations and through her work is educating a community of like-minded people.

In 2022, Anita was instrumental in helping establish the successful Dhurga language classes delivered out of TAFE NSW Moruya for communities on the South Coast.

Read full story

Awareness training improves understanding of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture

Thousands of TasTAFE students have had the opportunity to improve their understanding and knowledge of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture thanks to a suite of training offered by the Aboriginal Support Programs team.

TasTAFE’s dedicated Aboriginal Support team have delivered Cultural Awareness Training to more than 2500 students since 2019, with the purpose of the training being two-fold.


Read full story

TDA and its members are proud to support the work.

TAFETalks: Impact of last two decades of VET policy on TAFE


Wednesday, 12 June 2024 2.00-3.00pm AEST

Following on from the success of the great debate at the TDA Convention 2024, join TDA’s TAFETalks to further explore the impact of last 20 years of VET policy on TAFE.

In his final public appearance as Managing Director of National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Simon Walker will present key policy developments and data trends over the last two decades and prompt a broader conversation on the future of TAFE and the sector in light of the current policy agenda and the 2024/25 Federal budget.

Craig Robertson, CEO of the Victorian Skills Authority, and Mary Faraone, CEO of Holmesglen Institute and TDA Board Chair, will offer reflections on Simon’s insights. Engage with the panel of three experts in this interactive session.

Register here

Fee-free TAFE - success story collection

With the Fee-Free TAFE – success story collection, TDA aims to celebrate the successful implementation of the Fee-Free TAFE program by TDA members and the positive impact on individuals and priority groups benefiting from this initiative. All stories in this collection are re-published with permission of TDA members.

Today we are releasing two stories as a part of this collection.

Fee-free course starts Estelle’s career

Estelle Wyllie was at a loose end in her career when she happened to see an advertisement for Fee Free TAFE on Facebook.

The post immediately caught her attention, and soon she and her mother were browsing the TasTAFE website to see if she was eligible for Fee Free TAFE and what courses were available.

After leaving a full-time role at a chemist seeking a new career, Estelle was unemployed and not quite sure what she wanted to do next.

Read more on how fee-free TAFE at TasTAFE benefited Estelle’s career.

Successful fee-free TAFE at CDU

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.

By early 2024, about 250 students had completed, and more than 300 students were continuing their programs.

In early 2024, fee-free TAFE program returned to CDU with more than 600 courses offered to ensure the Northern Territory has the skilled workforce it needs.

Read more

More businesses identify skills gap for net-zero transition

One in five businesses have identified an emerging need for new skills related to the transition to the clean economy – a threefold increase on those surveyed in 2022, according to a new report from the Ai Group’s Centre for Education and Training (CET).

A total of 21% businesses identified the skills need flowing from the transition to a clean economy.

Among the businesses surveyed, those in the Services sector were the most likely to report their skills needs had increased due to the clean economy transition (24%), while businesses in Manufacturing and Construction were more likely to report an emerging need for new skills.

When asked about actions they planned to take to find or develop the clean economy skills needed, 75% of businesses surveyed said they planned to reskill existing staff on the job – up significantly from 36% two years ago. 57% said they planned to employ experienced people – up from 19% in 2022.

Northern Territory apprentice support provider announced

The federal and Northern Territory governments have announced that Group Training Northern Territory (GTNT) has won the tender to continue delivering apprenticeship support services in the Territory from 1 July.

The federal Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor said the Northern Territory provides unique challenges in delivering support services to apprentices.

“GTNT has shown that it is well placed to support apprentices and their employers throughout the NT,” he said.

The nine organisations that will deliver Australian Apprenticeship Support Services to other parts of the Australia were announced in April. The Northern Territory was subject to a separate tender.

The ministers said GTNT was best able to demonstrate its experience operating in the Northern Territory, including navigating the challenges of remoteness, seasonality, and establishing and maintaining connections over large distances.

Future Skills Organisation to release findings of AI study

The Future Skills Organisation (FSO) is soon to release its latest report, ‘Building an AI-Empowered Workforce: Priority Framework’”

In partnership with Mandala Partners, the FSO will be holding a webinar next Tuesday to launch the report which examines how the training system needs to respond to the impact of generative AI.

The report is also  expected to show which finance, tech and business qualifications are most likely to be impacted by generative AI.

See more

Diary Dates

Future Skills Organisation
Webinar: Building an AI-Empowered Workforce: Priority Framework’, in partnership with Mandala Partners
11 June 2024
More information

TAFETalks: Impact of last two decades of VET policy on TAFE
Wednesday 12 June 2024, 2.00-3.00pm AEST
Register here

Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
2024 Skills Conference: Empowerment & Connection
12 June 2024
Dockside Darling Harbour, Sydney
More information

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Symposium 2024
Cultivating Creativity, Connections & Confidence in the Australian Tertiary Education Sector
12 June 2024
RMIT, Melbourne and online
More information

33rd National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’ 
‘VET partnerships powering a dynamic workforce’
10-12 July 2024
North Metropolitan TAFE, Perth
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference ‘Skills for Life’
23-25 July 2024
Hilton Adelaide
More information

Victorian TAFE Association
TAFECreates 2024 State Conference
8-9 August 2024
More information

VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2024
‘From Competence to Excellence – Strive to Inspire’
15-16 August 2024
Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
Register here

National Skills Week 2024
‘It’s a Game Changer’
19-25 August 2024

47th WorldSkills Competition
10-15 September 2024
Lyon, France
More information

WFCP World Congress 2024
22-27 September 2024
St James, Jamaica, West Indies
More Information

AVETRA 2024 Conference
3-4 October 2024
University of Technology, Sydney
Save the date

2024 National VET Conference
31 October – 1 November 2024
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

Jobs and Skills Council Events

Go to individual JSC websites for event details.

Powering Skills Organisation
Energy Pathway Roadshow: Collaborating for a Sustainable Tomorrow – events in Darwin, Alice Springs, Perth, Bunbury, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong and Brisbane.

State and Territory Roadshow 2024