WIMMERA residents wanting to pursue a career in early childhood education can now apply for free TAFE courses locally.
Federation University TAFE's Wimmera campus will soon provide students with two new traineeship qualifications in the industry for free.
The courses will be a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, and a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care.
Campus manager Geoff Lord said the courses would be available from 2020 depending on enrollment numbers.
He estimated that there would be an average of 25 students for each early childhood course.
It comes after Federation University TAFE was allocated $1.1 million from the state government for five projects at the Horsham-based campus.
Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney visited the campus on Thursday and said the courses would help the Wimmera overcome shortages of qualified staff at childcare centres, kindergartens, and out-of-school-hours and holiday programs.
"Each of these projects respond directly to local demands for skills in the Wimmera and Grampians regions, meaning graduates can find a great job and hit the group running as soon as they are employed," she said.
Federation University vice-chancellor and president Helen Bartlett said the university "worked closely" with local employers across the Wimmera, and looked at where the gaps in training and study were.
Other projects funded through the $1.1 million included a new hothouse at the Horsham campus, which was built for students undertaking a Certificate III in Horticulture.
Horsham horticulture student Marg Priestley started her TAFE course in March.
"I want to build gardens for people of all ages and focus on sustainability," she said.
"Without the course in Horsham, I wouldn't have been able to study as a single parent. At least can do this course and still be there to pick up the kids after school."
The funding has also enabled Federation University TAFE to develop online interactive learning as part of the Certificate II in Electrotecgnology.
In June the university started offering the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping for free.
Last year the university announced changes to its Bachelor of Nursing course.
Nursing academic staff from the university's Mt Helen campus in Ballarat have started hosting blocks of intensive learning at the Wimmera campus once each semester.
The learning focuses on practical and clinical elements for first and second-year students.
Nursing student Tegan Burns started studying at the Horsham campus in January.
"I already work as a personal carer, so this is a big step forward for me in my career," she aid.
"As a mature age student with two young children in primary school, if it wasn't for the free course I don't know if I could study."
Mr Lord said there were 288 TAFE students at the Wimmera campus.
Of those, 50 are studying Nursing course, 38 are studying a Certificate III in Individual Support, and 18 are studying a Certificate III in Horticulture.
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