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Labor Announces Free TAFE

December 10, 2021

The AWU has welcomed news that an Albanese Labor Government will provide free TAFE spots and more university places to plug the training gap the union has been highlighting for years.

Federal Labor’s $1.2 billion Future Made in Australia Skills Plan will focus on key areas hit by skills shortages.

Under the plan Australians studying in industries with a skills shortage will be able to access more than 465,000 free TAFE places made available over four years, including 45,000 new places.

AWU National Secretary Dan Walton said the initiative was good policy for jobs, for people looking to train or retrain, and for businesses crying out for more skilled workers.

“One in four Australian businesses are experiencing critical skills shortages yet nearly two million Australians are out of work or looking for more hours,” Mr Walton said.

“This nation has a bright future but we must look to create opportunities for Australian workers to study and upskill, instead of plugging the skills gap simply by bringing in cheap foreign labour, and driving down wage growth in the process.

“Hopefully this plan will mean more secure, well-paid jobs, and deliver the pipeline of skills Australia needs to drive future economic growth.”

Mr Walton said the free TAFE spots would provide opportunities for school leavers, workers wanting to retrain or upskill, and unpaid carers – who are predominantly women – to get back into the workforce.

“It will also provide more opportunities for apprentices and trainees, and fill skills shortage gaps like those in trades and construction, resources, digital and cyber security, new energy and advanced manufacturing.”

Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said Liberal-National governments had spent a decade cutting TAFE and apprenticeships.
“Today we have 85,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships compared to 2013,” Mr Albanese said.

“This has happened in the face of the stark economic reality that nine out of 10 jobs of the future will require a VET qualification or a university degree.”

Labor says it will also work closely with industry and unions for opportunities that allow workers to transfer and build on their accredited micro credential training.

As well as boosting TAFE, Labor plans to invest $481.7 million to deliver up to 20,000 extra university places over 2022 and 2023, making it easier for Australians to study and get a job.


The new funding will be prioritised for universities that can offer additional courses in priority areas such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing, health and education, or where there are skills shortages.

“We should be investing in our greatest resource, Australians, as we recover from the pandemic,” Mr Walton said.

“Giving them more opportunities to study – at university or TAFE – will help fix existing skills shortages and open doors to Australian workers in industries of the future that are only now only starting to emerge.”

Places will also be prioritised for universities offering more opportunities for under-represented groups such as people in regional, remote and outer-suburban areas, those who are the first in their family to study at university, and First Nations Australians.

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