Fourth year apprentices Tim Borg and Shawn Ingram meet with CQUni Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp and Mayor Margaret Strelow on the Canning St campus
Fourth year apprentices Tim Borg and Shawn Ingram meet with CQUni Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp and Mayor Margaret Strelow on the Canning St campus

New centre ‘needed for regional recovery and growth’

The Rockhampton region cannot be expected to keep up with competing Queensland regions, nor mount a sustainable post-COVID economic recovery without sophisticated vocational and trades training facilities.

That is the message coming from Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll, who yesterday implored Government, industry and community to prioritise the construction of modern TAFE training infrastructure for the Rockhampton region.

“The simple fact is we cannot rely on outdated and obsolete trades training facilities – if we are to support modern contemporary industries in the region,” she said.

“The Canning Street TAFE facilities have exceeded their useful lifespan and are no longer compatible with Rockhampton’s rapidly-modernising industries. We have exceptional TAFE teachers in Rockhampton, but they are being asked to do critical work with ageing facilities.”

The Morning Bulletin reported earlier this month the University is in conversation with Council and other community groups regarding alternate uses for the Canning St campus, should the Government approve the funding bid for the new centre.

Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp, Adnought Sheet Metal's Greg Adams and Mayor Margaret Strelow call on the State Government to fund a new Centre for Excellence on the North Rockhampton CQUni campus
Vice-Chancellor Nick Klomp, Adnought Sheet Metal's Greg Adams and Mayor Margaret Strelow call on the State Government to fund a new Centre for Excellence on the North Rockhampton CQUni campus

“Without the world-class trades and other vocational training facilities required to meet the critical skills shortages unique to this region, my concern is that we will not reach our peak in infrastructure spending,” Ms Carroll said.

“We risk being left behind other regional centres in our economic recovery, with places like Townsville, Mackay and Gladstone being years ahead in their ability to pivot quickly to develop highly-skilled workers using modern, world-class training facilities.

“The Capricorn region is expected to see $4.5 billion dollars-worth of major infrastructure developments during the coming decade, but we anticipate a shortage of up to 3,000 skilled workers. If this region wants to maximise the economic impact of these investments, we must meet that training shortfall ourselves by skilling local workers for local jobs, right here in Rockhampton.”

Ms Carroll said CQUniversity – the region’s public provider of TAFE training – has prioritised the need for modern new vocational training infrastructure since its merger with CQ TAFE in 2014, and worked closely with industry and Government to develop a blueprint for a $49.8 million TAFE Centre of Excellence.

The $49.8m Central Queensland TAFE Centre of Excellence would see brand new, state-of-the-art vocational and trades training facilities constructed at CQUniversity’s Rockhampton North campus, while allowing the ageing Canning Street facilities to be redeveloped into a future health precinct and other advancements for the broader community.

The proposed new training facility would accommodate far more apprentices and students and offer a comprehensive range of local training options including plumbing, automotive, carpentry, construction, electrical, hospitality, horticulture, health and beauty. Apprentices and students would learn while using the latest specialised industry equipment, including simulation technologies.

Mary Carroll
Mary Carroll

The Central Queensland TAFE Centre of Excellence would be embedded within the university campus, exploiting co-utilisation opportunities with existing engineering facilities and student amenities, the Rockhampton Manufacturing Hub, the Advanced Technology and Innovation Centre, and the Central Queensland School of Mining and Manufacturing.

The expanded new vocational training facilities would allow the region to train an additional 1,100 apprentices and vocational students each year by 2025 (a 20% increase on current levels) growing to an additional 2,500 apprentices and vocational students each year by 2030 (a 44% increase on current levels).

The 26,000 square metres of new facilities would create more than 350 direct and indirect jobs during construction and generate an additional 300 long-term jobs from expanded university operations.

Ms Carroll said the new vocational training facilities embedded within CQUniversity’s Rockhampton North Campus would not only create a super cluster of world class training facilities, but it would also make Rockhampton the future skills capital of regional Queensland.

“The $49.8m Central Queensland TAFE Centre of Excellence would essentially complete the practical merger of CQUniversity with CQ TAFE that the community fought so hard for almost 10 years ago, as one of our Regional Priority Projects,” she said.

“Bringing all of our region’s vocational training together with our tertiary education and research capabilities will create a public economic asset that will help multiply every dollar and job linked to future developments in our region for generations to come.”