Bega’s worst-kept secret is now confirmed – the current TAFE campus is to be shut down with plans for its future use unclear.
However, it’s not the end of TAFE NSW in Bega – far from it – with a $17million commitment to expand on the nearly complete Connected Learning Centre with what is essentially a brand new “unprecedented” TAFE campus.
State Minister responsible for TAFE Adam Marshall and Member for Bega Andrew Constance made the announcement on Monday morning as construction on the $7.8million CLC continued apace in the background.
The announcement takes the total allocation for new TAFE NSW facilities in Bega to approximately $25million, with Mr Constance saying the cheque was already signed and that it was not an election promise.
“This is the largest investment, a historic investment, in education in our region,” Mr Constance said.
Mr Constance and Mr Marshall said the new $17million facility, to be built adjoining the CLC (where the old red-brick community health building currently sits) will allow the introduction of new courses including agriculture, bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, early childhood education and plumbing.
“Nowhere else in regional NSW will have a facility as good as this one,” Mr Marshall said.
While the CLC will already “double the number of courses on offer in Bega” when it opens to students in February, the new investment will significantly expand on that with a “specialist training centre” meaning practical skills and apprenticeships can all be done without having to travel outside the Bega region.
While the CLC has drawn its detractors for not providing hand-on learning most often associated with vocational education, he said the new facility with incorporate “real world simulated environments” to give students and apprentices that practical education without having to travel out of the region.
For months, teachers union representatives and political rivals have been using the CLC development as an argument that TAFE Bega was to be sold by the Liberal/National state government.
And for months, the government has denied that claim, with both Mr Marshall and Mr Constance on multiple occasions saying “there are no plans to sell Bega TAFE campus”.
On Monday they said the current campus will continue operating until the new greenfield TAFE is up and running, but then the site becomes “unnecessary”.
Existing courses and facilities, such as the hospitality and commercial cookery departments, will be shifted to the new site once it’s ready.
“What we will have is a seamless education precinct in the heart of Bega,” Mr Constance said.
“We’re yet to make a determination on the existing campus, but it will not be required.
“There’s a lot of land over there and we don’t really need to have TAFE sitting there if it’s not going to be used.
“It’s better to recycle the capital into new infrastructure and new opportunities for young people in terms of their education in this region rather than land banking.”
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