Wednesday, 1 December 2021                   HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                                   Page 8644/8645

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:08): My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on the future direction and security of the Port Pirie and Port Augusta TAFE campuses in regard to staffing in particular, and also provision of courses relevant to the industries?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (15:08): I thank the member for the question. Firstly, in relation to the campuses, we look forward to seeing those campuses used for training and also further opportunities for training-related activities for students who live in Port Pirie, Port Augusta and the districts. The TAFE board and the TAFE chief executive have in recent months released for consultation and discussion their regional review.

One of the key areas they are working in—and they are working in this across South Australia, but Port Pirie and Port Augusta are obviously key campuses, key locations where this is happening—is not only how to ensure that TAFE campuses, through the increased focus in regional South Australia in TAFE’s general work and their engagement with local industries and businesses, are meeting the local demand but how they also give more and broader opportunities to students in regional South Australia who might not traditionally have had access to a particular course in Port Pirie or Port Augusta or any other regional location. This is, I guess, one of those serendipitous benefits that comes out of the things that have been driven by necessity through COVID.

As people have become more comfortable and more familiar with technology, they have also become more familiar and more comfortable with the opportunity to do blended learning. Potentially, you might be trying to gather a group of 14 students in a course and, rather than waiting for a full year, or potentially two years or maybe it will never happen, to make it viable in one particular location you can bring together two or three locations through a high-quality AV investment or high-quality engagement between lecturers and students.

It doesn’t mean that the lecturer needs to be in the same room as the student for every single class. If they can share that course across two or three locations, you will increase the number of courses available, increase the number of times that they are able to be offered, speed up the process between somebody indicating an interest in undertaking a course or training and, indeed, that course being available at their local campus in a high-quality facility.

The TAFE board is obviously looking at those investments, where they might need to be made, in particular campuses to ensure that at those facilities that level of access is available as much as possible to students wherever they are in South Australia. For students in Port Pirie and Port Augusta, I have every confidence that in the years ahead those engagements between TAFE and local industry will continue to be enhanced.

Not so long ago I was with the member for Stuart at the John Pirie Secondary School, and we also visited Port Augusta Secondary School a couple of times, to talk about the Flexible Industry Pathways they are offering and, indeed, using the model that is available because of the reforms of the Marshall Liberal government for training in schools and vocational education and training (VET) in schools through the Flexible Industry Pathways.

What we are doing is enabling students at our schools to have access to high-quality training delivered by quality RTOs, in especially TAFE SA when it comes to schools, who are able to deliver that to school students. Because of the work we have done, we have identified particularly which courses are relevant for school students who are seeking to go straight from school potentially into employment, especially if that’s through a traineeship or apprenticeship on the way, so identifying what are the most high-value training opportunities for those students. We have also gone to industry and business and asked what specific sorts of training will meet the skills shortages both in regions and across the state.

Those Flexible Industry Pathways, offered at John Pirie Secondary School, offered at Port Augusta Secondary School, the member for Stuart and I certainly had great feedback from the schools about what they will offer those students, and we get great feedback regularly from businesses and industries about how happy they are. We have more than 3,000 businesses that have offered a traineeship or an apprenticeship for the first time ever in the last three years. We have had a 30 per cent increase in the number of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships in the last financial year and we are going to keep doing that work and keep giving more opportunities to those students.