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Year 12 graduate and TAFE Queensland student Jessica Clarke is on track to follow in her sister’s footsteps with a rewarding career in early childhood, after receiving a helping hand from the Queensland Government.

Under the State Government’s Free TAFE initiative, Year 12 graduates who enrol in a high priority qualification within 12 months of leaving school are eligible to receive their course free, enabling school leavers to pursue their dream careers without incurring any fees.

Jessica studied early childhood in Year 9 and after seeing how much her older sister enjoyed working as an early childhood educator, made the decision she would follow suit once she graduated from Bundaberg State High School at the end of last year.

“I really enjoy working with kids and I have two younger cousins, so I’ve had experience helping out with them,” Jessica said.

“Children are just so fun to be around – everything is new for them, so it’s interesting to see them learn and grow.”

Jessica found out about Free TAFE through her mum and was excited to discover the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC20113) was on the list of subsidised courses.

Now, as a recipient of the funding, the enthusiastic 17-year-old has been able to kick-start her career at no cost, with the qualification providing her with the knowledge and skills she needs to achieve her goal.

“The funding has made it a lot easier for me to study, and the course has been great. I’ve been able to get work placement as part of my studies, so it has given me the experience I need to secure a job in the future,” Jessica said.

“To have the chance to bond with the kids and see what it’s really like in childcare has been really helpful. Now I’m hoping to get a fulltime job in the industry and eventually work my way up to lead early childhood educator.”

Data from the Labour Market Information Portal shows a projected employment growth of 6.1 per cent in education and training in the Wide Bay region over the next five years, providing plenty of opportunities for students like Jessica who want to help shape future generations.

General Manager for TAFE Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay campuses, Ana Rodger, said she was excited to see the region’s youth eager to invest into their local communities.

Free TAFE for Year 12 graduates supports 160 qualifications, with TAFE Queensland’s Bundaberg campus offering a variety of options, including apprenticeships in cabinet making, light vehicle mechanical technology, commercial cookery, early childhood education and care, and hairdressing, as well as the Certificate III in Education Support and the Certificate III in Individual Support,” Ms Rodger said.

“It’s fantastic to see someone like Jessica receive the support to gain the skills she needs to succeed in her future endeavours. I can’t wait to see where her studies with TAFE Queensland take her.”

Free TAFE for Year 12 graduates is available in the calendar year after students graduate.

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