To boost employment in the construction sector, the government has announced one-off grants of up to $500 per student for those who do not meet the eligibility for scholarships and study loans.
The no strings attached grant will be given to 200 individuals.
This grant funding will help students obtain micro-qualifications in a construction-related skill course over a period of two-weeks to one-month.
Economy Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says this will be targeted but not limited to those who do not meet the eligibility criteria for scholarships.
Sayed-Khaiyum says the government will introduce a new scholarship scheme, known as Skills Qualification, at Fiji National University with 200 awards.
The government will also reinstate the National Toppers Overseas Scheme which was suspended in the last budget due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
“But now we can make up for lost time the previous allocation of 20 scholarships will double next year to 40. 30 of those will be for degree programmes (engineering, medicine, science, agriculture, fishery, forestry and IT), five will be for working people in public sector organisations, and five for the newly-branded Skills Qualifications.”
Sayed-Khaiyum says in the next financial year, the government will provide $162.6 million to fund scholarships, study loans and grants.
“We will award more scholarships, more student loans, and more grants in the next financial year than any year in Fijian history funding a total of 9,200 scholarships and student loans in addition to 2000 grants for micro qualifications for skills to meet the anticipated boom in our construction sector and combat the overseas poaching of our skilled workers.”
Government is currently paying $100 a month in allowances to students completing industrial attachments under TSLS sponsorship, however for the first time private students will also receive $100-a-month top-up.
He further stated that for the first time, for studies in Fiji, they will allocate ten Ph.D research scholarships and 20 Masters Research Scholarships for full-time studies.
“Three awards from the Masters Scholarships will be ringfenced for the newly-formed Monash University-FNU Pacific Island Countries Climate Change Research Centre. The areas will be in Medicine, Health, Science, Engineering, Climate Change/Environmental Science, Marine Science, Forestry, Public Policy, Public Financing, Economic Modelling and ICT. All recipients of these PhD and masters awards will have compulsory bonding with employers who are classified as Fijian entities.”
Government will increase the National Toppers Local Scheme award from 547 to 770 with 40 awards to MBBS, five for Bachelor of Dental Surgery and 40 for nursing.
Sayed-Khaiyum says many of our teachers are being poached by overseas educational systems as well, therefore the government will allocate 165 scholarships for teacher training in Maths & Physics, Industrial Arts, Primary Education and Computer Science.
“The Scholarship scheme for students with special needs will continue. Awards for the In-Service Scheme will increase from 120 to 140 awards of which 100 will be for public sector organizations and 40 for private sector and state-owned enterprises. For anyone at home doing the math, these announcements mean that the total number of scholarships in the next financial year has doubled to 1,200. I know our students are keen to know how they can apply. The full eligibility criteria will be published by TSLS in the Fijian Scholarship Scheme regulations and online.”
Government will introduce two new schemes under TELS.
“The first is a qualification upgrade that allows those who were never before funded by TSLS, as well as those who have repaid their loans in full to the Bachelor level, to upgrade to the postgraduate diploma level. In addition, those holding a certificate or diploma –– and who were funded by TSLS and have not yet repaid that loan in full –– will be allowed to complete up to a degree programme to gain a competitive edge for employment if they are not currently working. 400 of these study loans will be available in the next financial year.”
The second is a skills qualification for other tertiary education providers, including FNU.
Sayed-Khaiyum says 100 of these study loans will be available in the next financial year.