MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:30): One of the fastest growing sectors in Victoria is the healthcare and social services sector. It is Australia’s largest employing industry, with nearly four in five workers being women. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on this industry. We on this side of the chamber are so grateful for the commitment of these workers to keep us all safe and help us when we need it most. As more jobs become available in the industry, delivering the pipeline of skilled workers becomes even more important. That is why there are a range of courses on the free TAFE list—to build that pipeline. Free TAFE has been incredibly successful in delivering on what is needed.
In the three years prior to free TAFE starting, there were 5621 commencements in the diploma of nursing. Since free TAFE started, there have been 9127 commencements, which is a 62 per cent increase. In the certificate IV in mental health we have seen a 427 per cent increase in commencements in free TAFE. This is absolutely critical in delivering on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. In the certificate IV in youth work we have seen a 38 per cent increase in commencements compared to before free TAFE. What we are seeing through free TAFE is more students studying in priority areas. But more than that, we are also seeing a more diverse pipeline of workers ready to take on the jobs that need filling. Free TAFE is changing lives, it is supporting communities across the state and it is delivering the skilled workforce needed for the jobs that are being created.