THE Tamworth Business Chamber has welcomed Labor’s promise to provide free TAFE degrees in occupations facing a skills shortage, should it win the state election.
NSW Labor has unveiled a 10-year plan to provide 600,000 students with free TAFE courses in a bid to reduce skill shortages.
The scheme will cover all certificate-level courses in areas where there are skill deficits, such as childcare, aged care and disability care along with apprenticeships in fields such as plumbing and electrical trades.
Labor candidate for Tamworth Stephen Mears said there was “no doubt” a good portion of those free courses would land within the electorate.
“These courses range from $4000 to $15,000 – for a student to apply for a HECS debt, that’s a big burden to carry in to adult life,” Mr Mears said.
“And if it’s not them paying for it, it’s the mums and dads, or the business employing them.
“There is already enough burden on businesses at the moment with the drought.”
Tamworth Business Chamber president Jye Segboer said the policy was “a great idea”.
“Anything that’s going to solve the skills shortage that we have, particularly around apprentices, is very welcome,” Mr Segboer said.
“Off-setting costs is always appreciated. Lowering the cost for businesses increases the likelihood of them taking on new apprentices.
“They won’t have to shoulder the cost of training them and sending them to TAFE, which can often mean forking out for a trip to Newcastle.”
Mr Segboer said in Tamworth, electrical and refrigeration tradies were in high demand, with a shortage of apprenticeship numbers in both trades.
“The demand is just so high right now, and smaller operators can’t pass on the cost of an apprentice to customers, so they wear that cost,” he said.
Mr Mears said the plan would have both short-term and long-term flow-on effects.
“It’ll give these kids a job and get them off the dole, it’s got to be a bonus for everyone,” he said.
“Hopefully it will generate more business for TAFE and see the some of the 6000 jobs that were cut restored.
“It’ll cut the cost of running a business and encourage more businesses to open up.”
Should Labor win the election, it plans to launch the free TAFE course program from January 2020.