Polytech's free tuition appeals

Otago Polytechnic student Hope Robertson (24) works with a saw as part of a carpentry course...
Otago Polytechnic student Hope Robertson (24) works with a saw as part of a carpentry course being offered with no tuition fees. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Otago Polytechnic is ''delighted'' with the response to its offer of free tuition worth up to $5000 for trade courses, with demand exceeding the number of places in most subjects.

This comes after the polytechnic announced just over a month ago that students enrolling in seven second-semester trades programmes at the Dunedin campus would need to pay only course-related costs.

The offer was prompted by demand for skilled tradespeople in Dunedin, the Otago region and nationwide. Communications director Mike Waddell said the polytechnic was ''delighted'' with the response. As of last week, 230 applications had been received for the 120 places and the polytechnic was now working on finding ways it could offer more positions later in the year, Mr Waddell said.

''We want to be in a position where we can possibly offer every person at least some focused training.''

The certificates in carpentry and electrical and mechanical engineering had proved to be the most popular, but positions were still available in the plasterboard stopping, painting and masonry courses.

Further applications were expected, with most courses not starting until July 22.

The offer of free tuition was about helping alleviate a ''long-term'' trade shortage and reducing unemployment.

''It's about opening opportunities and raising the profile of trades and the fact they can give you a very good and rewarding career.''

The polytechnic was able to make the offer because, unlike in other subject areas, the Government did not have a cap on the number of students it funded in ''priority trades''.

Matt Hibbs, who started in the polytechnic's carpentry certificate on Monday, said he signed up for the course after seeing in the Otago Daily Times that the polytechnic was offering free tuition.

''I wasn't sure if this was what I wanted to do and [not having to] ... pay a whole bunch of money to come and do it was definitely one of the larger factors of why I jumped on board,'' Mr Hibbs said.

Having free tuition was a ''great idea'' and would encourage more people to give trades a go, he said.

Fellow carpentry student Hope Robertson said she wanted to learn a trade so she could build speaker cabinets and finding out there were no tuition fees was a bonus.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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