GAME CHANGER: $8.4 promised for TAFE Centre of Excellence
ROCKHAMPTON'S TAFE is on the verge of a new era after the Queensland Government made an election commitment of $8.4 million for CQUniversity to begin work on Stage 1 of its $49.8 million TAFE Centre of Excellence.
The funding commitment will allow CQUniversity to develop a plan to consolidate its campuses and produce a detailed business case which would inform the future staging of the Centre of Excellence project.
Once complete, the 26,000 sq m Centre of Excellence will replace the existing Canning St TAFE, freeing it up for an alternative use like the expansion of the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
The new facility will be co-located on the Rockhampton North campus, with the full construction project expected to employ 350 people and to be completed over three years.
The fully realised Centre of Excellence will have the capacity to train an additional 1,100 apprentices and VET students each year by 2025, growing to an additional 2,500 each year by 2030.
It will create an estimated 300 long-term jobs thanks to expanded university operations.
CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp welcomed Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing Glenn Butcher, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga to the southern campus on Thursday morning for the announcement.
Professor Nick Klomp said he expected the first stage in the project to be completed by the end of 2021, by which time CQUniversity aimed to have secured a subsequent government commitment towards the second stage, allowing the project to continue "seamlessly".
He described the initial funding commitment as a "game-changer" for public TAFE infrastructure in the Rockhampton region.
"For too long, public TAFE infrastructure in Rockhampton - one of the most important industry centres in Queensland - has lagged other parts of the state," Professor Klomp said.
"Today's commitment heralds a bright future for our Rockhampton apprentices, trainees and VET students, with the knowledge that a world-class skills training facility will soon be located right here in their own backyard.
"It also highlights Labor's commitment to all the public training providers in Queensland. As the state's only dual-sector university, we need the support of both the federal and state governments."
After the shock of COVID-19, he said this was exactly the sort of infrastructure investment the Rockhampton region needed to get back on its feet and moving in a positive direction.
"Not only will Stage 1 of the project create new construction jobs immediately, the Centre of Excellence will continue to create a supply of thousands of skilled workers in the years ahead - a truly sustainable investment," he said.
The Vice-Chancellor said there were multiple benefits for relocating the TAFE operations in Rockhampton.
"We'll be able to locate the Centre of Excellence right alongside the Rockhampton Manufacturing Hub, the Advanced Technology and Innovation Centre and the Central Queensland School of Mining and Manufacturing, effectively establishing a world-class technology and innovation training precinct right here in Rockhampton," Professor Klomp said.
"In addition, it will free up the existing Canning Street site for a wide range of community purposes, including a potential expansion of the Central Queensland Hospital and Health precinct."
Professor Klomp praised local political leaders, community figures and business owners for their unwavering support of the Central Queensland TAFE Centre of Excellence funding push.
"Our vision for the CQ TAFE Centre of Excellence is a shared community vision, supported by dozens of civic and business leaders across the Capricornia region," he said.
"Today's announcement is testament to their support and advocacy for this vital public TAFE infrastructure project."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the announcement was part of her government's new $100 million Equipping TAFE for our Future policy, which would create local construction jobs across Queensland and provide new, modern training facilities to get more Queenslanders into work.
"Investing in TAFE infrastructure to help boost skills will be crucial to our state's economic recovery," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I want young people growing up in Central Queensland to have access to world class training facilities to get them into rewarding careers.
"We're focused on skilling people in traditional trades but also new industries and advanced manufacturing."
Mr O'Rourke said we had a world-class TAFE system and the Queensland Government would keep it that way, especially in Central Queensland.
Ms Lauga said Labor was dedicated to skills and training.
"We understand the training needs of our area and we know the importance of equipping our TAFEs to service those needs and to grow jobs," Ms Lauga said.
Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the investments in TAFE infrastructure built on Labor's record of backing skills for young people.
"We need to provide Queenslanders with the skills demanded by emerging industries," Ms Fentiman said.
"That's why it is crucial we continue to invest in our TAFE campuses.
"Campbell Newman and Deb Frecklington closed TAFE campuses, sacked 2100 TAFE teachers and cut training programs such as Skilling Queenslanders for Work.
"The LNP can't be trusted with our TAFE system, or Queensland's plan for economic recovery."
The LNP's candidates for Keppel, Adrian de Groot and Rockhampton, Tony Hopkins were asked whether their party would consider matching the election commitment.
Katter's Australian Party pledges $50m in support of new TAFE Centre of Excellence
In late September, Katter's Australian Party candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd said if he was elected and KAP secured the balance of power, he would commit $50 million to establish the Central Queensland TAFE Centre Of Excellence.
Mr Shepherd said Rockhampton still hasn't recovered from Labor's sell-off of QR National.
"This devastated the local workforce with thousands of forced redundancies and layoffs," Mr Shepherd said.
"It's vital that we rebuild what the major parties have destroyed by ensuring that Rockhampton has access to world class, locally based education and training opportunities.
"This will help us meet existing trade demand and address skills shortages.
"The development will increase Central Queensland's vocational skills and drive our industrial productivity as we realign our economic focus to expand local industries and reduce our reliance on overseas manufacturing."
Mr Shepherd said it was a vital part of securing long term prosperity and sustainability.
"The centre will secure Rockhampton's trade future by bringing our facilities into the 21st century and giving TAFE students the ability to be trained locally. This will also reduce the logistical and financial pressure put on low paid apprentices and small trade businesses during training blocks," he said.
"The facility will also fuel a substantial increase in CQ TAFE staff, students and revenue which will all be welcome additions to the local economy.
"The construction of this facility has the added benefit of freeing up CQU's site on Canning Street, as the CQ TAFE training facilities are consolidated at the North Rockhampton campus."
Mr Shepherd said the potential for the vacancy of the Canning Street site was massive.
"There is a strong possibility it will be utilised by public health organizations such as CQHHS to facilitate new and expanded health services between the Base Hospital and Canning Street sites," he said.
"I am very much looking forward to exploring the potential this site represents for the Rockhampton community.
"This project has massive potential to not only revolutionise vocational training in Rockhampton, but also our health services. Reducing regional patients' reliance on Brisbane based health services is a very welcome prospect.
"This alongside the KAP's commitment to fund Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Practitioner candidate positions in Rockhampton shows our strong ability to adapt and evolve health policies to suit regional areas, where the major parties would fumble around trying to roll out a one-size-fits-all policy developed in Brisbane."