Connected Learning Centre to align with Tomaree Peninsula Tertiary Education Working Group aims

BENEFITS: Tomaree Tertiary Education working group convenor Peter Clough with an artist's impression of the new CLC proposed for Salamander Bay.
BENEFITS: Tomaree Tertiary Education working group convenor Peter Clough with an artist's impression of the new CLC proposed for Salamander Bay.

Port councillors that attended the June 23 meeting approved the development application for construction of a new Connected Learning Centre (CLC) on a council-owned block of land adjacent to Salamander shopping complex.

The $7 million centre was a state Liberal Party election promise, initially expected to be sited in Nelson Bay but later shifted to Salamander Bay much to the disappointment of many Nelson Bay traders and business owners.

All going well, construction of the Tomaree CLC is scheduled to commence early next year to allow classes to begin day one, term one in 2022.

The CLC model has the strong backing of the Tomaree Peninsula Tertiary Education Working Group, which is made up of representatives from the local business chamber, high school principals and industry leaders in tourism, hospitality and retail.

Convenor Peter Clough said that the centre would align with the group's aims to target a new workforce market.

"We have an opportunity to decentralize people into Port Stephens and really embrace working remotely from a beachside environment," he said.

"Just imagine doing a Zoom meeting laying back on Little or Shoal Bay beach with an office in the background."

There are 14 Connected Learning Centres across regional NSW, with eight more in the pipeline, providing a range of diverse courses.

"So if a student from Nelson Bay wants to study wool classing they can virtually link in to a course provided at a CLC in say Orange," Mr Clough added.

Mr Clough said that there were positive reasons for encouraging Sydney based people to think seriously about working remotely and in a more flexible and desirable environment.

"In particular young professionals with kids, who would have the potential to add productivity benefits to the growth and sustainability of the Tomaree economy. We also have a strong readily accessible secondary school system to support the educational development of their children."

Other advantages for city-based businesses to move to Port Stephens, according to the working group, include the availability of NBN allowing good internet connectivity, the imminent introduction of 5G technology, council's smart city technology, reduced travelling time for families and more affordable housing.

Mr Clough believes that a younger age demographic also has the potential to increase productivity levels and fill some of the vacant office and retail space in Nelson Bay town centre.

"It will also assist in providing a well-trained and skilled workforce necessary to meet the long term needs of the rapidly growing tourism, marine, aero space, health and aged care sectors," he said. "We should be taking the lead from Regional Australia Council 2031 to attract people to regional areas such as Port Stephens."

Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said that significant progress was being made on the delivery of the Tomaree CLC, with the next step to open the tender for construction of the state-of-the-art facility.

"This will greatly expand the availability of education and training in the community by connecting local students to TAFE NSW's statewide network of campuses, courses and resources," she said.

"The new multi-purpose, digital learning facility will provide students with personalised learning experiences, access to teachers both on and off-site, and directly relevant training for local skills shortages including in the hospitality, tourism and aged care industries."

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