Opportunities for people to find a career in agriculture are expanding across south-west Victoria as farming industries continue to search for trained employees. Free TAFE courses in agriculture has expanded in south west Victoria to meet the demand for employees, which SWTAFE agriculture teaching education manager Bec Toleman said gave more opportunities for students. "The Government has recognised the ongoing skills shortage in agriculture and is now offering a free pathway, starting with a Certificate II in Agriculture and continuing with Certificate III and then either the dairy production certificate or the Certificate IV," Ms Toleman said. "As long as you've finished one agricultural course, you can enrol into the next and keep moving through for free, which we've never done before." Ms Toleman said there were more staff to deliver the courses in Hamilton, Colac, Warrnambool and Glenormiston. There are plans to introduce a Certificate 4 IV in Agriculture in Colac and a Certificate III in Hamilton next year. There is also an offering of a series of compliance short courses, including use of tractors, quad bikes, front end loaders and a free chemical handling course. "The Government is trying to support the industry by putting as many options as possible on the table and we're expanding to meet that by adding more staff across all campuses and new courses to better service the area," Ms Toleman said. A $2 million project at the Glenormiston campus will add to the SWTAFE agricultural program, with more personal development opportunities for teachers and potential to expand into school camps. WestVic Dairy regional manager Lindsay Ferguson welcomed the increase in courses and said workforce shortages remained a key issue in the south-west dairy industry. "Skilled staff are essential for the running of a successful farm business and while backpackers can fill a gap, farms much prefer to employ skilled local staff that have commitment and are permanent," Mr Ferguson said. "WestVic Dairy has staff members dedicated to helping people discover and develop their careers in the industry and any schemes that can add to the pool of skilled staff are welcomed." Ms Toleman said there had been a lot of interest in the Free TAFE agricultural certificates, but farmers continued to call for more workers. "We're finding a lot of farms that are short staffed across the board," she said. "The need for skilled workers is probably at one of the highest levels it has ever been and we haven't fully recovered fully after the border closures during Covid. "I'm constantly getting calls from farmers asking if I've got people they can employ."