Since she was a teenager, Emily Dawnmills has been interested in working in aged care.
“I had family members in aged-care facilities, and I really just got drawn to the environment and I really enjoyed the people who worked there,” she said.
“Everyone who lives in aged care has a story, they’ve lived a long life and they’re very interesting people, so I just wanted to give back to them and help them.”
She recently completed an 18-month enrolled nursing degree at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) Bruce campus, and will now study for a registered nursing degree at ACU.
Emily chose this study pathway to gain more experience and to make sure this was the career she wanted to pursue.
“You get an idea of whether you will really enjoy it or not, you get more hands-on work,” she said.
“You get credit towards study at ACU as well, so I think it’s a lot better pathway to go if you’re interested in nursing.”
More people will be able to access further education in nursing, as well as in early childhood education and care, mental health, cyber security, construction and hospitality, under the Fee-Free program offered through CIT.
The jointly funded initiative between the ACT and Federal governments has opened enrolments for the first time, with spots on offer in 46 different qualifications and pre-apprenticeships.
ACT Skills Minister Chris Steel said it was about removing barriers to studying and training in areas where there were skills shortages.
“The wide variety of courses on offer provide exciting opportunities to learn new skills in a supportive environment at CIT, setting up students for their future careers,” he said.
“Skills shortages are gripping the nation and the ACT is no exception. It is vital that we support people locally to obtain the skills they need to fill job vacancies.”
At a time when the ACT’s unemployment rate sits at a historic low of 2.9 per cent (as of December 2022), it’s also hoped this will provide another feather in the resumes of people struggling to find work.
“For those who have struggled to, perhaps in the past, get entry into the labour market, this is their opportunity to get the skills and support to move into these key industries where their skills will be in high demand,” Mr Steel said.
The approximately 2500 fee-free places include 840 in the care sector, 600 in hospitality and tourism, 400 in technology and digital courses, 50 in construction, 40 in sovereign capability – including space trades – and 600 in other priority sectors, including foundation skills.
Federal Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor said he hoped this would also give people who may be working indefinitely in unskilled areas another choice.
“We need to find as many ways as possible to encourage people to undertake courses that will give them the skills to set them up throughout their working life,” he said.
“We do believe by reducing or abolishing fees for these courses, it will encourage people to enrol, it will reduce the cost-of-living pressures on those people who are making those decisions, and I think that is critical if we’re going to get the right skills into the economy that we need.”
While Emily has missed out on making the most of this opportunity, she hoped it would help more people enter critical workforces.
“Financial situations shouldn’t be a barrier to education, so I find it really great that a lot of other people can have those chances to do what they love,” she said.
CIT has had 110 fee-free enrolments so far, with 331 applications and 512 inquiries.
Enrolments are open to those who are eligible to apply.