STUDENTS in the Wellington Shire are a step closer to having state-of-the-art training facilities, with the state government unveiling its designs for the new TAFE Gippsland campus at the Port of Sale.
The video animation offers a virtual glimpse of the $25 million project that will centralise most of TAFE Gippsland's facilities and services in Sale.
The new Port of Sale campus will deliver education and training facilities for a range of industry and academic disciplines that will meet industry and community needs and provide greater access to training for students across the region.
Built on land previously occupied by the Sale Netball Association and Gippsland Armed Forces Museum, the development will provide purpose-built facilities for a variety of courses including health and social services, early childhood, carpentry, engineering and automotive trade.
The new TAFE campus has been designed by Victorian architects GHD Woodhead Architecture.
A builder is expected to be appointed in the coming months, completion of the project scheduled in late 2021, with opening of the new facility in early 2022.
"Our Port of Sale campus will meet local industry and community needs with its central location providing greater accessibility to training for students across the region," TAFE Gippsland chief executive Grant Radford said.
Training and Skills and Higher Education Minister Gayle Tierney said the Port of Sale development was another example of the work the government was doing to develop cutting-edge training solutions to meet the local needs of students and industry as they adapt in a changing economy.
Eastern Victoria MLC Jane Garrett said when completed, the new campus would provide more opportunities to learn new skills and gain qualifications that will lead to local jobs.
Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien said the newly-released graphics were great, "but have been a long time coming".
"After a concerted community campaign of well over a decade, the Nationals committed to a new campus in Sale in August 2017, and finally the Labor government matched our commitment in May 2018," he said.
"That it has taken two years to even get to the design stage and will be another 18 months before the project is finished is not good enough.
"Ultimately it will be nearly four years from when funding was provided until the campus is open - and in the meantime students in Wellington Shire have to put up with outdated and crumbling facilities.
"It's perhaps no surprise then that TAFE Gippsland's annual report, tabled in parliament this week, shows that in 2019 the Fulham campus had only a quarter of the enrolments of the Bairnsdale campus.
"We need better facilities for training in Sale, and I'm glad we'll be getting them - eventually," Mr O'Brien said.
Data released last week revealed the Free TAFE program, launched in 2019, had resulted in a 92 per cent increase in commencements at TAFE Gippsland, compared with the same courses at the end of 2018.
In 2019 at TAFE Gippsland, Free TAFE commencements increased for mature-aged students and unemployed Victorians, along with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and those with disabilities.
The number of women studying in Free TAFE at TAFE Gippsland courses increased by 110 per cent.
More than 25,000 students took up courses to bolster the National Disability Insurance Scheme, family violence and infrastructure workforces.
Across the state, almost 40,000 students began Free TAFE training, an 88 per cent increase in commencements compared with the same courses at the end of 2018.
Underlining the importance of TAFE to regional communities and industries, a quarter of Free TAFE commencements were in regional Victoria.
The Free TAFE program is also playing an important role in providing a pipeline of essential healthcare workers, such as nurses, during the coronavirus crisis.
Free TAFE will also play a crucial role in helping re-train those facing unemployment and underemployment as the state moves towards recovery.
Because of Free TAFE, students have already saved up to $10,000 for Diploma-level courses, $5000 for Certificate IV courses, and $2500 for pre-apprenticeship.
The most popular Free TAFE courses in 2019 at TAFE Gippsland were Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, Certificate III in Individual Support, Diploma of Nursing and Certificate III in Education Support.
The new TAFE facility at the Port of Sale will consolidate the current Federation Training sites in Sale and Fulham.