Students are applying for now-free EIT programmes in record numbers after the Government boosted its support for apprenticeships by $1.6 billion in this year's Budget.

Almost 500 students have this semester enrolled in courses eligible for the Government's new Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund, EIT executive director of portfolio and performance Patrick Jones said.

On top of that 240 apprentices have enrolled across carpentry, horticulture and automotive engineering, courses covered by the Government's so-called Apprenticeship Boost.

The School of Trades and Technology has now created a second electrical engineering cohort to support the demand and a second stream of the level 4 NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Advanced Support) has also been implemented, something quite unusual for semester two, Jones said.

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There are currently 87 students enrolled in the level 3 and level 4 Health and Wellbeing support work programmes across the Taradale and Tairāwhiti campuses, an increase of 25 on last year.

The level 3 and 4 certificates can lead to jobs in aged care, disability sector, teacher aid, DHB and mental health support roles or into higher-level study such as nursing and social work, an employment area the Taradale teaching team say is in demand post-Covid.

"There is a massive demand for people with health and wellbeing qualifications. Health providers are crying out for mental health professionals," Jones said.

 Level 3 Health and Wellbeing (support work) programme tutor Verena Lyons. Photo / EIT
Level 3 Health and Wellbeing (support work) programme tutor Verena Lyons. Photo / EIT

"People see that there are great job opportunities for qualified workers. Students tell us they want to make a difference for the community and they feel what they are doing is rewarding and fulfilling."

Kodi Climo and Hannah Le Monnier, both aged 18, are studying for the level 3 Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (support work). The course is free for domestic students and the TTAF will cover fees from 1 July 2020 until 31 December 2022.

Climo, who wants to work as a caregiver or support worker, said it was "a great surprise to hear that the programme is free now".

Le Monnier began the course in February before the funding had been announced and said the fact she is able to get the qualification for free "has a positive impact on my studies".

"I also want to go on to do the level 4 course, the fact that it is free is a bonus of course. I would like to become a caregiver and work with disabled people but I'm sure that gaining a level 4 qualification will give me even more job opportunities," she said.

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Jones said he expects even stronger demand for semester one, 2021.