Planning underway

A NEW state-of-the-art Federation Training facility, to be built at the Port of Sale, could be complete as early as late next year.

In the 2018-19 state budget handed down on Tuesday, the state government allocated $25 million for a campus to be built on Sale’s former netball courts site.

An Education Department spokesperson confirmed detailed planning was well underway, as the project already had a business case and had been fully costed, with completion expected in late 2019.

A master plan and design phase will “commence shortly”, and the $25 million is anticipated to cover all remaining planning, design and construction.

A project manager and architects will be appointed immediately, with construction expected to begin early next year.

Community and stakeholder involvement in the design and planning phase will be encouraged through the development of a project group, involving Wellington Shire Council and industry representatives.

The spokesperson said the project would allow Federation Training to withdraw from a number of aged and poorly located facilities, as the new campus was to be a consolidation of the current Federation Training sites in Sale and Fulham.

Federation Training’s interim chief executive officer Grant Radford said while courses at the new campus had not been confirmed, previous community consultation indicated a need for trades, business and health courses.

“What we’re keen to do is to back up the engagement from toward the end of last year, and do further engagement with industry, the community, with schools and the students, to actually identify all the courses that they’re going to need for the jobs of the future,” he said.

“We’ve got an idea, but we’ve got to get that accurate.”

Mr Radford said while no decision had been made about the Fulham campus’s future, and that Federation Training was still working out how G-Tec would liaise with the new campus, the new facility was intended to be a centralised campus for all of Sale.

“We want to make sure we still continue with (avionics courses), whether it’s at the Fulham site, or whether it can be done,” he said.

“We’ll work through that process as well, but we’ll definitely continue to do that training.

“Ideally it’d be great have it all at the one spot, but if the discussions and decisions are that it’s better (separate), we’ll do that as well.”

The number of students and courses held at the new campus will depend on the uptake of students, a Federation Training spokesperson added.

“Clearly there will be a preference for training courses that will support the employee needs of the local industries and businesses,” the spokesperson said, pointing out 30 priority TAFE courses had just been made cost free by the government, and therefore would affect potential student numbers.

The spokesperson said Federation Training was “very happy” to deliver on the community’s needs, as highlighted in the community forum held in Sale last October.

“The community, industry and business position was clear — they wanted a centrally-located TAFE, modern facilities, easy student access and a better student experience with a variety of course options — that is what Federation Training and our new TAFE building will deliver,” he said.

“Wellington Shire Council will play a significant role in bringing together the community, industry and business stakeholders for design consultation — this consultation will inform the actual planning and design of the new TAFE building.”

Getting to this point has been a 10-year-plus battle, with consistent lobbying from Wellington Shire Council, the Committee for Wellington, local industry, the opposition and the wider community.

Wellington Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley was ecstatic at the news, and said locals never lost sight of their need for further education opportunities in Sale.

“Many students haven’t had a choice — because there isn’t a great transport network, they haven’t been able to seek the training, or they’ve started training but given up because it’s just too hard [to get to it],” she said.

“Local industry has told us time and again of the struggle they have with accessing further training for their staff, with many having to send their young apprentices and other employees to Melbourne.

“It is clear that if we can provide this training locally it will be of benefit to local business, students and families, and also the local economy.”

Cr Crossley called on the community to get behind the campus.

“We’ve talked the talk, and now we need to make sure the community really does support this new campus — actually makes the choices to come and study here, that the schools support it and direct their students to these sort of outcomes, and also our businesses, now that the facilities will be here, that they use these,” she said.

Cr Crossley said Wellington residents would be pleased to see the former netball court site on the South Gippsland Highway redeveloped, as it had become an eyesore.

“It’s in walking distance to the CBD, accessible via public transport, it’s a few metres away from the Port of Sale precinct which is home to the Gippsland Art Gallery and Sale Library [which] has just come online with the EduCloud system.

“This time, it’s in the budget, so I have every confidence we’ll see more than shovels, we’ll see bulldozers.”

South Gippsland MLA Danny O’Brien said “the success of the community fight that forced Labor to match the Nationals’ commitment to a new TAFE campus” was the budget’s only bright light.

“I’m proud that The Nationals and Sale community have shamed Labor into finally committing funding to build us a new campus for Federation Training,” he said.

“Nearly 10 months after we committed to a new campus and 14 years after the previous Labor government promised one, we finally have success.

“Labor really shouldn’t be claiming this as a win, it should be apologising for the delay.”