The University of Wollongong and the Illawarra's TAFE campuses will offer thousands more places for students under a Labor plan to address skills shortages, an Illawarra MP says.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has promised to deliver 465,000 free TAFE places, 45,000 of which would be new, and up to 20,000 new university places across Australia.
Stephen Jones, Labor Member for Whitlam and opposition assistant treasurer, said he expected to see a "significant proportion" of these places allocated to the Illawarra, given the skills shortages in the region.
Mr Jones said there was a shortage across the traditional trades and "thousands" of job vacancies that employers were struggling to fill.
"Everyone's crying out for skilled workers," Mr Jones said.
Free TAFE places were on the table, he said, because he did not want to see anyone dissuaded from taking on a trade because they could not afford their education.
Mr Jones said these extra TAFE places would be supported by the "hundreds" of TAFE teachers who had been laid off and wanted to return to the workforce, or wanted more work after having their hours cut.
Regional Development Australia Illawarra chief executive Debra Murphy identified the hospitality and accommodation sector, trades in heavy industry, and nursing, health and aged care as suffering the largest skills shortages.
Ms Murphy said Labor's proposed funding for more education and training places was welcome.
"Breaking down the barriers to training... is great, because it can assist in addressing skills shortages," she said.
However, Ms Murphy said it was important to note that access to education and training was only part of the solution, because some shortages in the Illawarra were complicated and chronic.
"It is a good thing, but it's not a panacea," she said.
Labor's $1.2 billion skills plan also includes a $50 million technology fund to improve IT facilities, workshops, labs, and telehealth simulators at TAFE campuses.
Meanwhile, the Coalition government yesterday announced that it would establish industry-based groups with the aim of improving engagement with employers working with the vocational education and training sector.
It says this will ensure courses meet the needs of both students and employers.
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