New era of vocational training in the Central West

The Queensland Government is investing more than $30 million to modernise and reinvigorate vocational education, training and skilling in the state’s central west.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the agricultural industry had evolved significantly and change was needed to make sure training needs could be met and rural economies supported.

“An independent review of current vocational education and training by Professor Peter Coaldrake has found demand for traditional agricultural industry training has been declining for years and more flexible options are needed,” the Minister said.

“On the review’s advice, the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges will cease operating at the end of 2019, with a transition to more modern, cost-effective training.

“The Coaldrake Review has identified opportunities to grow the vocational education, training and skills sector in central-western Queensland, and help boost economic growth and regional resilience.”

Minister Furner said to implement the Coaldrake Review the Queensland Government will initially invest $7 million to:

  • ensure current students can complete their qualification or studies at QATC or through a supported transition to other training providers
  • maximise employment opportunities, in consultation with staff and union representatives, which may include retraining, deployment, or redeployment
  • establish a project management office with local support provided to students and staff
  • work with the local communities to determine the best future use of existing college facilities.

Minister Furner said the decision to close QATC was not taken lightly, but enrolments had been consistently falling for years despite significant government support.

“Agricultural employers have been sourcing more flexible training options, and enrolments have fallen well beyond the point where the QATC was viable,” Mr Furner said.

“We have maintained the QATC Emerald and Longreach colleges with significant funding for years, but they are well past the point where they are sustainable.

“Numbers of students have reached unsustainably low levels across Emerald and Longreach campuses of QATC leaving only 9 students at Longreach and 7 students at Emerald campuses to graduate in 2019.

“In the Central West region alone there are five training providers operating within the region who offer agriculture training similar to that provided by QATC.

“An additional 11 training providers offer training in a range of industry sectors from hospitality and construction to mining and aged care.

“The agricultural sector and the jobs market in these regions have changed massively since the colleges were first established, and the vast bulk of employers are choosing other options.”

More than 70 key stakeholders, as well as local mayors and local MPs, were consulted during the Coaldrake Review. In addition, Mayors in regions affected by the changes were also briefed this morning and Mr Furner gave an undertaking to continue to consult them as the new model of training delivery takes shape.

The State Government has commenced negotiations with vocational education and training (VET) providers and commercial partners about the potential use of QATC’s college facilities to not only meet industry training needs, but also help boost economic growth through other identified opportunities.

Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said a team from DESBT will work with the project management office to oversee this transition to help reshape VET in the region.

“The Palaszczuk Government has been a supporter of TAFE and other VET pathways and this reform will continue that commitment in the central west,” Ms Fentiman said.

“We want to ensure better use of the existing assets and resources to support VET offerings for agricultural and other sectors.”

Minister Fentiman said more than $30 million will be invested to reshape VET in the central west to ensure continued access to high quality courses which will include:

  • $25 million over three years to support training through the Annual VET Investment Plan
  • $700,000 for Regional Skills Investment Strategies to ensure training meets growing industry needs in the Central Highlands and Longreach Local Government Areas
  • $2.2 million for the Regional Skills Adjustment Strategy to support farmers affected by drought
  • ongoing support for the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program.

“The Queensland Government recognises the long and proud tradition of agricultural education and training and its importance to regional Queensland,” Ms Fentiman said.

“Quality education and training will continue to support our regional and rural communities, just in a more modern, targeted and cost-effective way.”

Coaldrake Review report:

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