The purchase and refurbishment of the 7.2-hectare property at 200 Ballarat Road is expected to cost about $4 million and will open opportunities for expanded course offerings and on-site partnerships.
South West TAFE has been delivering training and other services from the site since 2016 when it relocated from its Hammond Street campus.
CEO Mark Fidge said it was exciting news for training in the Southern Grampians region and would create an excellent student experience.
“This gives the community certainty of having courses run out of a permanent home. It means the site will be upgraded to better meet the needs of current courses with the potential to introduce new programs and develop new community and industry partnerships,” Mr Fidge said.
Mr Fidge said the buildings needed a significant financial investment but would be modernised to create a major community asset.
“It provides us with an exciting future for our program delivery and for meeting the needs of local employers and industry partners,” he said.
The revamp will start immediately with $100,000 to be spent creating a new state-of-the-art nursing training space for use in early 2023. South West TAFE is also seeking government grants to upgrade early childhood training facilities and individual support programs.
Another key priority is likely to be establishing an Industry Skills Training Centre as industry programs will be eventually migrated from Hammond Street. This will ensure courses such as forklift, elevated work platforms, traffic management, Construction Induction Card and working safely at heights will continue.
The revamp will be partly funded by the expected sale of the Hammond Street site in 2024.
Mr Fidge said a major feature of the Ballarat Road campus is its capacity to include future community and industry collaborations and partnerships. “There are some exciting possibilities and spaces that can be utilised by many organisations. We will be keen to talk to the community, education, business and industry groups to look at ways they might use the campus.”
Initial ideas include converting the former animal mortuary into a digital study hub or business centre. Other opportunities exist for public-private partnerships using some of the other spaces and grounds.
The campus is used to deliver accredited courses in nursing, VCAL, early childhood, individual support, wool classing, disability, community services, education support, and training and assessment. It also supports a number of other courses such as agriculture, horticulture and meat processing via workplace-based learning.
Following the purchase, South West TAFE expects to offer a wider range of food and fibre full and short courses for the Hamilton region.
South West TAFE is also keen to work with local secondary schools to offer VET courses and TAFE trades “tasters.”
Mr Fidge said that while redeveloping the facilities was the first priority, South West TAFE wants to consult community and industry about other potential options for the site.
“We will be looking at additional programs and inviting like-minded organisations to work with us. It comes with a large parcel of land that opens opportunity for further development specific to the training needs of the region.”
SWTAFE Board Chair Steve Waterhouse said the purchase was “a unique opportunity to strategically place South West TAFE at the forefront of post-secondary education and training in the Hamilton district for the next 25 years.”
“It’s a really exciting outcome that confirms our long-term commitment to the region, its people and its industries.”