Grand plan to expand for TAFE

A RURAL course for international students, a specialist equine program and online study are key elements in Warwick TAFE's bid to become the state's major agricultural learning centre.

Warwick TAFE campus director David Taylor announced plans yesterday to expand the local rural faculty and in the process effectively double student numbers.

He said his organisation focused on delivering “short, sharp, skill set training” as opposed to traditional two-year ag courses.

“We are actively working to expand and become the hub of agricultural training and education in Queensland,” Mr Taylor said.

“That means working closely with industry to ensure we provide training, which meets industry needs.”

Mr Taylor said the approach was already paying dividends with a 75% increase in rural course enrolments at Warwick TAFE during the past 18 months.

“More than 1000 students went through our rural courses last year and we would expect that to double over the next 18 months to two years under an expanded rural program,” he said.

Southern Downs mayor Ron Bellingham yesterday welcomed TAFE's plans for expansion, but admitted he was wary of the organisation's ability to deliver.

“The TAFE campus is an excellent facility, which in my mind has been under-utilised in recent years,” Cr Bellingham said.

“When it first opened it offered just what the community needed in terms of training delivery.

“I believe that need is still there – particularly in the rural sector – but it will depend very much on the methodology the TAFE uses to expand.”

In general he said news of the local expansion was “very welcome” and could be a positive for the Warwick economy.

In the rural sector AgForce president Brent Finlay described Warwick TAFE's decision to expand as “fantastic”.

“Strategic training provision will always be welcome by the rural industry,” Mr Finlay said.

“Traditional agricultural colleges have experienced a steady decline in enrolments in recent years so it is clear a new approach to rural training is needed.”

He said practical “short and sharp” training workshops teaching specific skills could be the answer.

“The right type of training will attract students and will be embraced by employers,” Mr Finlay said.

He said whether Warwick was the ideal location geographically remained to be seen.

Generally speaking Mr Finlay said the region had a lot to offer, but attracting state-wide and international demand would hinge on the specifics of the training offered.

On the local front Warwick TAFE plan to launch their first step in the expansion move – offering online training, backed up by specialist workshops and on-farm training – from this July.

Then Mr Taylor said he was confident a pilot program targeting international students keen to develop their rural skills would start before December.

“We will continue to expand our popular certificate two and three in agricultural studies and offer the migrant training course,” he said.

“And we are also hoping to offer a specialist equine training course, but at the moment we are still liaising with industry.”

Mr Taylor said the expansion program would benefit the city with students requiring short to medium term accommodation.

“As student enrolments increase the TAFE college will also need additional teacher and administration staff so it is a very positive thing,” he said.

“I also think having between 15 and 20 international students here for the pilot course would also be beneficial to the local economy.”

On a staff front teacher numbers in the Warwick TAFE's rural faculty have already increased by two this year with plans to employ more industry specialists as enrolments rise.

“At Warwick TAFE we want to develop a rural training centre, based very much on what the rural industry wants, as opposed to what we think it wants,” Mr Taylor said.

He said the city was strategically located to service industry in Queensland and Northern New South Wales as well as our international neighbours.

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