Upper Spencer Gulf Mayors have kicked off the new year with a strong push to progress university study centres in the region as a way of improving face to face access to higher education.
The three Mayors and university representatives from the Upper Spencer Gulf Community Owned Tertiary Education Centre (COTEC) initiative met with South Australian Minister for Education Susan Close and Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation Kyam Maher to provide an update on the project.
Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer said as the economy of the Upper Spencer Gulf transitions, the region needs to have a strong local workforce with the right qualifications.
“Our three cities have all suffered from an increase in ‘fly-in, fly-out’ professional and technical workforce and if not addressed, it will be an impediment to our future growth and economic diversification”, said Mayor Breuer.
“We need to make the facilities and support available locally to give school-leavers and adult learners the best opportunity to finish their tertiary studies and to be part of the long-term success and vibrancy of our regional cities.”
“Ultimately, we want to see an expansion of higher education courses and research successfully delivered in the region, not just delivered to our region.”
“The COTEC is not about competing with existing institutions, but simply about giving our Upper Spencer Gulf community greater access and the best chance of success in higher education.”
Port Pirie Mayor John Rohde explained that a key part of the discussion was requesting the South Australian Government reconsider providing support to upgrade and access parts of the disused TAFE buildings by the COTEC.
“We have fantastic TAFE facilities in the region that are under-utilised,” he said.
“It is a perfect opportunity to turn these into a tertiary education study centre that provides easy, local access and face to face support for school leavers and those requiring professional upskilling and seamless pathways to move between TAFE and university.”
Port Augusta Mayor and chair of the Spencer Gulf Cities Association, Sam Johnson, said representatives from the Upper Spencer Gulf have been campaigning for this initiative over a number of years, with strong support from industry who can see the benefits of having locally available and locally relevant training.
“On average there are around 2,500 students from the Upper Spencer Gulf and environs enrolled in vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate study every year, with many of these enrolments for online courses or based within capital city universities”, explained Mayor Johnson.
“Our aim is to establish a hub where students studying a range of courses, at a range of different universities, can come together locally with the tutorial and student support they need to help them succeed.”