Mixed messages surround the health of TAFE services in Bega, with discussions about job cuts and campus extensions at the education facility taking place simultaneously.
On Tuesday, March 6, NSW Teachers Federation representative Rob Long was at the gates of the Bega campus alongside TAFE students to protest funding cuts he said will lead to the loss of two head teachers in the community services and business studies courses.
Mr Long said 20 head teacher roles were under the axe on the South Coast, and called on TAFE NSW and Member for Bega Andrew Constance to assure teachers there would be no redundancies.
“Two head teacher roles will go, but we don’t know yet if that means they will be made casuals, made redundant or if they will be moved to another campus altogether,” he said.
Mr Constance said that while some TAFE positions have changed based on community and industry need, teachers at the Bega campus are unaffected.
Mr Constance added that the TAFE modernisation reforms that were protested by Mr Long were bringing a new Connected Learning Centre to Bega.
Back in April 2017, Mr Constance announced a CLC will be built on the site of the defunct Bega District Hospital.
He recently reiterated the point and said plans were being finalised for the development.
“The NSW government is not only keeping TAFE in Bega but is about to significantly expand its capabilities, we are in essence building a new campus,” he said.
“TAFE NSW is currently finalising both acquisition and design of the site for the new Bega Connected Learning Centre with a construction date to be announced by the end of the month.”
Bega Valley Shire Council is currently working with Health Infrastructure on the planning reforms needed for the CLC at the old hospital, which has known asbestos contamination issues.
Council’s general manager Leanne Barnes is personally undertaking the liaison with Health in regards to the old Bega District Hospital site.
Last year, Mr Constance said asbestos concerns would be considered in the business case for CLC the development.
TAFE NSW deputy regional general manager Belinda Mackinnon said CLCs significantly expand course options in smaller regional towns compared to existing campuses.
“CLCs enable more students to undertake their training locally instead of having to travel to TAFE NSW campus in a larger centre,” she said.
Four CLCs were opened late last year across NSW and a further 10 will be opened over the next 12 months, including in Bega.
CLCs use mobile training units, simulations and virtual reality to bring education to regional locations.
Mr Long said it is unclear how CLCs would impact teacher jobs, and any TAFE NSW restructures should not come at the cost of teachers.
“Students should have the ability to drop into a teacher’s office when they need to, those informal lessons and advice are such an important part of teaching.”