CQUni calls for candidates to back TAFE Centre of Excellence
NOT wanting to leave the future of TAFE to chance, CQUniversity has called for all sides of politics to commit to funding the $49.8 million Central Queensland TAFE Centre of Excellence.
The project promises to lift training in CQ to the next level by establishing a state-of-the-art vocational and trades training facility at CQUniversity’s Rockhampton North campus, allowing for training of an additional 1,100 apprentices and vocational students each year by 2025, and growing to an additional 2,500 apprentices and vocational students by 2030.
The 26,000 square metre facility would create more than 350 jobs during construction and generate an additional 300 long-term jobs from expanded university operations.
It will form part of a world-class “smart precinct” in North Rockhampton, consisting of the Rockhampton Manufacturing Hub, the Advanced Technology Innovation Centre, and the new Central Queensland School of Mining and Manufacturing.
The project has the backing of more than 20 of Rockhampton’s most notable business and community leaders.
Following last week’s pledge by Labor to fund the $8.4 million stage one of the Centre of Excellence should they be re-elected and the KAP’s $50 million pledge towards the project in September, CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp said it was time for all parties to commit to the project.
His call echoes letters sent to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, signed by dozens of Central Queensland’s key community figures, backing an “all in” promise to fund the TAFE in recent weeks.
“As we head to the polls in October, we can’t leave the future of TAFE in Central Queensland to chance,” Professor Klomp said.
“Regardless of the outcome of the state election, the CQ TAFE Centre of Excellence must go ahead if we’re to ensure our young people, and mature workers, have access to the skills training they’ll need to thrive in an increasingly difficult job market.”
He thanked Labor and some of the minority parties for flagging their commitment to the project ahead of the ballot on October 31.
“I know I speak for many Central Queenslanders in calling on the LNP to match these pledges and demonstrate their commitment to the future of skills training in this region,” he said.
The letters to the Premier and Opposition Leader painted a stark picture for the future of the region, if the TAFE Centre of Excellence did not receive sufficient financial backing from an incoming state government.
“The Canning Street TAFE in Rockhampton is outdated and is simply no longer suitable to skill what will likely be the most vital generation of workers needed in the modern history of our region,” the letters said.
“The fact that we have a recession to overcome because of the COVID-19 crisis only compounds the urgency of this situation.
“There will be up to $4.5 billion dollars in major infrastructure developments in the Rockhampton and Central Queensland region over the coming decade, but an expected shortage of up to 3,000 skilled workers.
“We cannot be expected to modernise our workforce and mount a credible post-COVID recovery effort using vocational and trades training facilities that are simply not up to modern, contemporary standards.
“Our shared concern is that we risk not realising the full benefits from this economic stimulus due to local skills shortages.”
Signatories to the letters include such Rockhampton identities as Mayor Margaret Strelow, Beef Week CEO Ian Mill, hospital chair Paul Bell, Rockhampton Grammar headmaster Dr Phillip Moulds, and Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll.
Other supporters include high profile business leaders Grant Cassidy, Ian Weigh and Greg Adams, as well as Malcolm Mann from Darumbal Enterprises, Jason Field from Central Queensland Indigenous Development, and Elyse Riethmuller from the Fitzroy Basin Association.
Completing this project would also allow a pivotal land asset in the heart of Rockhampton to be returned to the community.
“Returning the existing Canning Street campus to the community will realise huge benefit, not least the proposed expansion of the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service facilities – a regional priority for our community,” Professor Klomp said.
LNP candidate for Rockhampton Tony Hopkins
Mr Hopkins said he had met with Professor Klomp a number of times to discuss CQU’s exciting plans for its TAFE operation, and intended to speak with him personally to discuss the announcement.
“I am a strong supporter of establishing ‘Blue Collar Universities’ that have a focus on providing top level training, particularly for the Resources, Infrastructure and Agriculture Industries,” Mr Hopkins said.
“With my background in the resources, infrastructure and transport industries, as well as being a qualified mechanic, I have personally seen the decline in vocational training under this hopeless Labor government.”
He said for the Member for Rockhampton to claim TAFE here was “world class”, was staggering.
“Labor has a shocking record on traineeships and apprenticeships,” he said.
“Since the Labor Government was elected in 2015, traineeships and apprenticeships numbers have been in free fall.
“Course completions have fallen by almost 33 per cent under Labor and there are almost 15 per cent fewer students in training.
“Labor has failed employers, our economy and our young people.”
LNP candidate for Keppel Adrian de Groot
Mr de Groot said Labor should be judged on its record after almost six years in power.
“They have zero credibility when it comes to agriculture education after shutting ag colleges in Emerald and Longreach,” Mr de Groot said.
“What we have seen under Labor is apprenticeships and traineeships go off a cliff. The number of young people completing training has fallen by a third under Labor.
“Labor are failing our young people, our employers and our whole economy. Queensland now has the highest youth unemployment in the nation – 15.5 per cent.”
He said a LNP Government would give employers, training and employee representatives a seat at the table by creating a Queensland Industry Skills Council.
“The LNP will also work with regional skills boards that assess local training shortages, as every region has different needs,” he said.
“Under an LNP Government, businesses will have the confidence to invest in young Queenslanders and train our future workforce.
“The LNP will create the demand for new workers by creating 150,000 new jobs through our economic plan.”
Katter’s Australian Party candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd
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 establishing the Central Queensland TAFE Centre Of Excellence.
Mr Shepherd said Rockhampton still had not recovered from Labor’s sell-off of QR National.
“This devastated the local workforce with thousands of forced redundancies and lay-offs,” 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 organisations 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.”
Legalise Cannabis Queensland candidate for Rockhampton Laura Barnard
Mr Barnard said investing in education was a must in the bid for economic recovery.
“Three hundred long term jobs and 350 construction jobs, the future student access to further our region’s skilled workers for future prosperity would prove a phenomenal asset to our region,” Ms Barnard said.
“This addition to our educational facilities produces jobs and starts spinning that economic wheel, I believe it would be a benefit to provide funding to community organisations until these facilities are completed in order to strengthen our approach to economic recovery.
“This would provide extra economic momentum for reducing our unemployment rate by providing community facilities the opportunity to extend their services and further support our community.
“Further qualified people means more job opportunities are opened to our community.”
The Greens candidate for Rockhampton Mick Jones
If elected, Mr Jones said he would wholeheartedly support this TAFE proposal.
“The Greens brought free uni and TAFE to the last federal election, and our commitment to education is unmatched in dollar terms,” Mr Jones said.
“But it’s important that we make sure the people we train are given good jobs with decent conditions, and that the wealthy they create stays in CQ.
“Far too often in the past, the debate over skill shortages has been about filling the demands of billionaires, mining tycoons, and multinational corporations.
“That’s led to a generation of poor conditions and low wages from labour hire and other measures, while profits for big business are maximised by taxpayer funded subsidies, and revenue breaking deals like the recent royalty holiday implemented by QLD Labor.”
While building excellence in CQ, he said we needed to make sure people were properly compensated for their hard work, skills, and innovation.
“The QLD government has a responsibility to lead the work of job growth with key projects that supply jobs, including those in manufacturing, construction, and maintenance,” he said.
“The QLD Greens will create 1,142 jobs in renewables construction in our region, and build a wind turbine factory in Rockhampton with a capacity to manufacture 250MW of wind turbines by 2023, creating 425 jobs a year.
“These are publicly owned and operated projects, which ensures good wages and conditions, low power prices, and that each project helps build capacity in CQ.”
He said this would include strict local content rules phased in by 2027, including 60 per cent locally sourced manufacturing content for all utility scale wind and solar energy projects by 2027, and no labour hire in the local supply chain.
“Local content rules give local, small and medium sized enterprises the opportunity to innovate and grow, while reforms of labour hire ensure that workers are properly compensated and supported,” he said.
“Building these supply networks in CQ will encourage private investment in the sector, without having to cut government revenue, offer costly subsidies, or damage wages and conditions.
“Labor has recently followed our lead on manufacturing and maintenance in CQ, notably announcing that they will again try and reacquire the Rockhampton Rail Yard that they, disgracefully, privatised years ago.
“That’s a promising development and taken together, these projects will fulfil the potential build at training centres and schools, including the TAFE Centre of Excellence, the Rockhampton Manufacturing Hub, the Advanced Technology and Innovation Centre, and the Central Queensland School of Mining and Manufacturing.
“It’s also worth assessing the redevelopment of the southside campus, as long as public property remains in public hands, regardless of the arrangements made.”
One Nation’s candidate for Rockhampton Torin O’Brien
Mr O’Brien expressed reservations about how this project would be funded.
“While very important necessary projects how do we pay for them while $100b in debt?” Mr O’Brien asked.
“Everyone is making enormous promises with no way to pay.”