Published by The Border Watch
By Raquel Mustillo
MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has renewed calls for an overhaul of TAFE SA to decentralise the vocational education and training provider and establish regional boards of management.
Following almost three years of advocacy, Mr Bell has continued his push to abolish the centrally-operated TAFE SA board and install regional boards across the state to ensure the organisation provides education and training services that meets the needs of country communities.
The independent MP was recently joined by Shadow Education Minister Blair Boyer in a roundtable discussion with Di-Monty Training Solutions managing director Di Ind, Group Training Employment general manager Greg Megaw and other stakeholders to discuss the vocational training needs of regional industry.
Mr Bell said there was a strong desire to return to local boards of management, similar to the regional health structure that has been established, to engage with industry and investigate opportunities to expand training currently offered in the region.
"We have young people who are travelling for training and I firmly believe there are courses that should and could be offered here under a different model," he said.
"I believe that model is a vocational board, with TAFE SA perhaps having a chief executive officer based in the region who is responsible for the campus.
"We have very good staff here, but TAFE SA has been underfunded for a very long time and we want to make sure the training that is offered meets the community and industry needs." Ms Ind said the region required a mix of public and private training providers as neither was able to satisfy the vocational needs of the Limestone Coast alone, adding solid industry and stakeholder consultation was required to ensure programs were aligned with the needs of local industries, communities and students.
"Having that consolation with industry, understanding where industry is headed and then us being able to match training services to meet those needs will allow us to reduce the gas and have highly qualified staff in our businesses to enable us to grow," Ms Ind said.
"From a private perspective, we consult with industries and organisations all the time about what it going on.
"We want our intellectual intelligence to stay here locally. and need our young people working so they have a clear pathway to choose careers they are interested in.
"It might not be a job for life, but if we have the services they need in the region, it can help give them stability and help them stay in the region.
"Vocational training means on-the-job experience, training and teaching and passing on knowledge through a competency-based assessment and training system that actually works." Labor frontbencher Mr Boyer acknowledged community concerns about the inability to access training in the Limestone Coast and said he was personally interested in the idea of regional boards.
"One thing we all agree on is when you have decision makers from or based in the area where they are making those decisions, you get better outcomes because they are invested in and part of the local community," he said.
"As soon as that is outsourced out of the community, you start to get decisions that don't sit well with the community and I think that's what we are seeing down here." However, he stopped short of endorsing the reforms, but said he would raise it with State Labor for consideration during the party's policy development.
Last year, Education Minister John Gardner responded to Mr Bell's questions about TAFE SA and said the organisation was "in the midst of reviewing its structure to improve its business operations." "This has included an analysis of regional manager positions across the organisation," he said.
"The proposal being considered includes regionally-based positions to respond to local training needs." TAFE SA chief executive David Coltman said an outcome of the regional management consultation was the establishment of a new educational partnerships team, which will centralise stakeholder relations and provide a one stop contact point for external stakeholders to do business with TAFE SA.
"This team has a strong focus on developing education based partnerships across the regions to support the growth of regional training delivery, undertake community engagement functions and will ensure close collaboration with valued stakeholders in schools, industry, government and the community throughout the state," he said.
"A manager, education partnerships, is based at the Mount Gambier Campus and will continue to work closely with stakeholders across the Limestone Coast to support local education and training in the region.
"Through the new education partnerships team, the local educational staff and regional visits from the TAFE SA Executive team, we will continue to work closely with local communities to ensure we are supporting the skill requirements across the region."