Minister says Nelson Bay TAFE to be established by 2022

DISCUSSIONS: Community college board chairman Warwick Mathieson with (l-r) mayor Ryan Palmer, Hunter MLC Taylor Martin and Minister Geoff Lee at the Tomaree Education Centre. Picture: Supplied
DISCUSSIONS: Community college board chairman Warwick Mathieson with (l-r) mayor Ryan Palmer, Hunter MLC Taylor Martin and Minister Geoff Lee at the Tomaree Education Centre. Picture: Supplied

Nelson Bay can expect to open the doors to its promised $7 million TAFE NSW Connected Learning Centre (CLC) by 2022.

NSW Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee and Hunter MLC Taylor Martin, who were in Port Stephens on Friday to discuss the delivery process with key stakeholders, would not, however, be drawn on a site, the choice of courses expected to be on offer, nor the future of the current TAFE facility operating out of the Tomaree Education Centre.

Also attending the meeting were Warwick Mathieson, chairman of Tomaree Community College, the Tomaree Business Chamber's Leah Anderson and Peter Clough, and mayor Ryan Palmer.

The siting of the facility remains a contentious issue with the chamber favouring the disused Donald Street east car park site and the community college opting for their Government Road property.

Mr Mathieson said that the meeting was a great step forward for tertiary education in Nelson Bay, and that the college was looking forward to working with TAFE to supply courses that were needed on the Tomaree peninsula.

"The Minister showed an interest when I suggested that the college grounds would be ideally suited and sited for the proposed CLC," he said. "Discussions are ongoing."

Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer, Hunter MLC Taylor Martin and Minister Geoff Lee at the Tomaree Education Centre. Picture: Supplied

Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer, Hunter MLC Taylor Martin and Minister Geoff Lee at the Tomaree Education Centre. Picture: Supplied

Mr Clough said that site location would be a priority.

"A key outcome [from the meeting] was to investigate suitable sites including the partly decommissioned council carpark in Nelson Bay," Mr Clough said.

Asked whether the existing TAFE facility which has been operating from the education centre for 20 years would be closed, Mr Martin offered: "TAFE NSW currently operates a small presence at Tomaree with a limited course profile. The facility is co-located in the Tomaree Education Centre alongside a primary and high school, where space is at a premium."

Dr Lee said the NSW Government's Budget commitment would deliver funding for the design and early planning of TAFE NSW's first permanent presence in Nelson Bay.

"The new modern campus will provide world class facilities for students to access quality training in a range of areas critical to the NSW and local economy," he said.

Mr Martin said the new CLC would add much needed choice in education and training for the region.

"CLCs provide local students access to a wide range of learning and course options, so students can get the skills they need for the job they want," he said.

Mr Clough described the news as a "great opportunity to increase the skills base of the Tomaree peninsula community which has approximately 30,000 residents and accordingly will make more of us work ready to meet the rapidly changing needs of industry".

"Currently there are around 30 per cent of graduating Year 12 students from Tomaree High School who go on to higher education," Mr Clough said.

"A CLC would substantially increase with the availability of a local facility, resulting in more work opportunities for young students. It would also provide more educational opportunities for mature aged people who wish to upgrade their skills to facilitate re-entering the work force."

Mr Clough said it was clear that TAFE would be happy to co-share with other education providers such as the University of Newcastle.

"Some people would be already aware that the UoN has decided to introduce pathway programs for Tomaree Peninsula residents to be commencing later this year."

Construction of the Nelson Bay CLC is scheduled to commence in early 2021 and be open to students in 2022.

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