TAFE SA has welcomed a recent announcement that a new $35m technical college will be located at its Mount Gambier campus.
Promised during the State election and confirmed within days of the new Government taking office, the new technical college was originally planned to be co-located with Mount Gambier High School.
However, after representation from Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell, Premier Peter Malinauskas announced the changed location when Country Cabinet was held in Mount Gambier last week.
TAFE SA chief executive David Coltman said staff welcome the opportunity of having the college located at Mount Gambier’s TAFE SA/UniSA site and were happy to work with the Government to deliver further educational opportunities for the Limestone Coast.
“Having the college co-located here will ensure that our students are using state-of-the-art equipment and have access to future technology,” Mr Coltman said.
“It will also entice future students to come through tertiary institutions because we find that when students come on campus as part of their school studies they get familiar and comfortable with the campus, making it an easier transition.”
Mr Coltman said during the next six months, staff would work with the government to put together a curriculum for the college and plans for how the college would work with schools across the Limestone Coast.
“This is a really exciting blank canvas for us so it is critical we get it right,” he said.
“We have had small investments over the years from the State Government in regards to agricultural facilities but this is a completely new offer.”
He said during his three years in the position, the college investment was the biggest injection from the State Government he had seen.
“This will allow us to meet the needs for the region and, considering Mount Gambier is our central education practice and where we deliver all the training, we are hoping it may also be the start of something that could be spread across the State,” Mr Coltman said.
Also speaking on the announcement was OneFortyOne’s training manager Danielle Burford who said the main issue was that throughout Covid, skills management and learning was not as easily accessible online as other tertiary education classes.
“It is really essential that we have access to students learning these skills locally and regionally, especially because we have so many different industries in the Limestone Coast,” Ms Burford said.
“It is not just forestry that is struggling with lack of skilled workers but also agriculture, farming and fisheries which are all in need of more practical skills and options.”
Ms Burford said there was also a need to maintain engineering and electrical skills as well as lifting the standard of skill management to “move with the times”.
“Engineering and electrical skills are not just about connecting wires anymore but it is also about connecting massive machinery, lasers, robots and everything out there that needs to be learnt and we need to have the skills available for those smaller industries that have that type of equipment,” she said.
“I think having the college co-located with TAFE SA is a good place to put it from a Mount Gambier perspective because high schools are typically more central to the community and trying to find space and build around residential areas would be tough.
“TAFE SA is on the edge of town and the spaces here are readily available and it is a central tertiary education point of town where students don’t need to feel like they have to be affiliated with a particular school to be able to use the facilities.”
She said the promise of appropriate transport was also a good investment for students wanting to use the college, allowing those from all different socioeconomic backgrounds to have access to the facilities.
TAFE SA Mount Gambier campus will also receive a $5m grant from the State Government in the 2022-2023 financial year to further improve facilities.