A “revolution” for vocational education in the South East is touted to begin construction next year.
In an announcement made on Friday by NSW Minister for Infrastructure and Bega MP Andrew Constance, a brand new TAFE “connected learning centre” will be built on the site of the defunct Bega District Hospital.
Mr Constance said the TAFE development would cost “in the millions of dollars” but that “significant funds” had been allocated in last year’s NSW government capital works budget.
He said a business case for the learning centre was expected to be complete within the next 3-6 months and “shovels in the ground” in 2018.
“We are announcing a connected learning centre for TAFE NSW which is now going to revolutionise vocational education and training for the South East.
“What we will see is in essence the rebuilding of TAFE with a brand new facility in Bega in the heart of the town, connecting with the high school, the university, but more importantly the wider community.
“Ideally, we’re able to retain this site for the purposes of commuity use – and what better way to that than for vocational education and training of young people.”
Course offerings will likely adapt in alignment with the skills needs of local industry, but with the increased use of innovation and technology, Mr COnstance said.
“[It’s] the desire and dream for many of us to stop our young people having to travel away to get vocational training and given them the ability to undertake courses right here in the centre Bega, right here in the heart of the South East,” he said on Friday.
Mr Constance was joined in the announcement by Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain who thanked the local Member for his support, pleased the site would be retained for wider community use.
The old hospital itself has known asbestos contamination issues and Mr Constance said he would prefer to see a new building erected in its place, but that options will be explored through preparing the business case for the whole site.
“There are a lot of challenges with contamination of this site...but it’s a large site so, I think, quite easy to subdivide the site and identify right parts of land to suit TAFE’s needs.
“It will be utilising taxpayers’ money while mindful of getting the best value for taxpayers as well as the best social outcome for community,” he said.
BVSC general manager Leanne Barnes said the council reiterated its position of being open to facilitate hosting of masterplans for the site and interaction between the various groups over its use.