The state government will make studying secondary education free from 2024 to help combat the chronic shortage of teachers in Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education Natalie Hutchins made the announcement on Tuesday as part of a $229.8 million package to grow the school workforce.

The scholarship program will follow a similar system as the nursing degree scholarship that was announced earlier this year.

From 2024 to 2025, an investment of up to $93.2 million will provide new scholarships to support teaching degree students with the cost of studying and living.

On top of this, final payments will be given out to graduates if they then work in state government schools for two years.

This scholarship program is estimated to help boost 4000 future teachers into the school workforce.

The state government said a further $27 million will be used to continue and expand the Targeted Financial Incentives Program – providing incentives of up to $50,000 to teachers from Victoria, interstate and overseas to take up rural, remote and otherwise hard-to-staff positions in government schools.

Mr Andrews said this initiative will help get Victoria back to being the education state again.

“Teachers change lives – it’s as simple as that. This will mean one less barrier for Victorians thinking of a career in teaching, and more great teachers for the education state,” the Premier said.

Ms Hutchins said the state government has long worked on helping grow the number of teachers to reach demand.

“The number of teachers in Victoria is increasing and that’s no accident – we’re delivering a range of initiatives that have helped grow the number of registered teachers in Victoria by nearly 5000 between 2020 and 2022,” she said.

The state government’s teaching scholarship announcement comes after teacher and staff vacancies for public schools in Victoria hit record numbers in August, with 2255 positions advertised on the Education Department’s vacancies website, according to the Australian Education Union (AEU).

In an open letter to the Premier, the AEU said there is an alarming shortage of people enrolled in education.

“Not enough people are undertaking teacher training, and 50 per cent of those who enrol in teacher education courses don’t complete them. And more than 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession after five years,” the union said.

The state government’s most recent announcement has been welcomed by the unions, but they also suggest there can be more done to fix the education issue at hand.

AEU Victorian Branch Deputy President Justin Mullaly said existing teachers are burnt out covering for gaps in the system and more must be done to help give schools the ability to retain staff.

“We need to do more to retain existing school staff in the system. Retention payments are one of the many solutions the government can implement now to acknowledge the key role of teachers, education support staff, and principals, their valuable work, and encourage them to stay in the profession,” he said.

Federation University, with its Gippsland Campus in Churchill, openly welcomed the state government’s teaching aid announcement.

The total scholarship for students who complete their studies and then choose to work in government secondary schools will match the HELP fees charged by the Commonwealth government for Commonwealth Supported Places – $18,000 for a four-year undergraduate program or $9000 for two years of postgraduate study.

Professor Claire McLachlan, executive Dean at the institute of education, arts and communities, Federation University Australia said, “The Victorian government’s scholarships for those who are interested in secondary teaching are a fantastic initiative and should help to ease the teacher workforce shortages. The expansion of funding for Career Start is also welcome news to support beginning teachers to adjust to the profession.”