Web_m031613_colorUPWARDS of $7.5 million in Commonwealth Government funding has been released to commence work on the establishment of a world’s best practice trade training program in South Gippsland. The program, which is expected to be up and running by the start of 2015, could have been delayed considerably, if not thrown into doubt, had confirmation of funding not beaten last weekend’s Federal Election announcement by a matter of a few days.

The project will include:
– Significant investment in a new trade training facility at the Apprenticeships Group Australia site in Korumburra
– Development of automotive trade training facilities at Leongatha Secondary College
– Major upgrades to communications technology at local secondary colleges
(including Korumburra, Leongatha, Foster and Mirboo North), and
– Investment in communications technology at local Regional Training Organisations (RTOs).

Hoped for funding for participation by Mary MacKillop Catholic Regional College in Leongatha, in the order of $1 million, did not eventuate and is still awaiting approval. However, Vocational Education and Training (VET) students from the college will still be able to participate. Temporary sources of funding might have to be found locally while Mary MacKillop awaits the outcome of its application to be a fully-funded participant; an issue which is set to become a key election issue locally. News that the ‘in principle’ funding had finally been released was greeted warmly by South Gippsland Secondary College Principal Cheryl Glowrey, whose school is the lead agency in the funding application. (Chair of the South Gippsland Trade Training Centre Alliance, Michael Dalaney, was unavailable for comment yesterday). “This (funding) will provide a very exciting opportunity for the young people of South Gippsland,” Ms Glowrey said. “The committee members of the alliance have been working for years to bring about this outcome and I would personally like to thank them for their efforts. “As a result South Gippsland’s government and non-government schools, as well as the LLEN and RTOs who provide vocational education for our young people, including GippsTAFE, AGA, Community College Gippsland and GoTAFE (dairy programs) will be able to develop a world’s best-practice model for delivering trade training in this area.”

Ms Glowrey said secondary colleges at Korumburra, Leongatha, Foster and Mirboo North along with Mary MacKillop College would participate in the program, with the focus on the following trade training areas:
– Agriculture and Horticulture
– Automotive (especially heavy machinery)
– Building and Construction
“The South Gippsland Shire Council helped us identify the areas of need within the local region and while the Hospitality trades remain an area of need, it wasn’t covered by the approved categories. “Clearly it remains an area of need.” Ms Glowrey said that while trade training would still be delivered hands-on in many aspects, the funding provided the opportunity to employ advanced information technology and communication to deliver training by high-definition video conferencing and other systems. “These delivery methods are already being used overseas and with this funding we’ll be introducing the best ITC platforms available in the world today and start to overcome some of the difficulties in accessing RTOs and training programs locally.” Ms Glowrey said the emphasis would be on providing pathways for VET students into Certificate III courses in all VET subject areas in the future. She said that while the full suite of VET courses was available now (in Certificate II or III), the vision for the future was to link South Gippsland’s program with those to be set up in West Gippsland, the Latrobe Valley and East Gippsland in the future.

A spokesperson for one of the participating local agencies said it was most important that the funding approval came through before the election date was announced. “We’ll be able to get on and appoint our project management and really start the project rolling without getting caught up in the whole election process.” It was in April last year that the ‘Sentinel-Times’ first provided details about the project.
At the time we said that secondary colleges and registered training organisations (RTOs) would share in the funding to upgrade buildings, trade equipment and communications technology, especially for high-end video conferencing. Each school and regional training organisation (RTO) will get a share of the funding for capital works, equipment and information and communication technology with colleges and RTOs offering their own specialty courses for trainees.

It will allow students still in the school to start getting their trade training certificates in an expanding array of disciplines. The roll-out of NBN services is expected to enhance the delivery of courses. The South Gippsland Trade Training Centre will make use of Leongatha GippsTAFE’s technology facilities and Apprenticeships Group Australia’s Korumburra facilities. Existing automotive training facilities at Leongatha Secondary College will be expanded to accommodate heavy vehicle automotive, Apprenticeships Group Australia in Korumburra will be expanded to take larger numbers for carpentry, plumbing and electrotechnology. Agriculture and horticulture will be delivered via technology and some face-to-face practical sessions, especially drawing on the expertise developed by GippsTAFE and GoTafe The project has been described as the most exciting development for education in this region in the past 40 years.