THE UPPER Spencer Gulf Mayors have continued their push to secure university study centres in the region by meeting with Education Minister Susan Close and Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher.
Representatives from the Upper Spencer Gulf Community Owned Tertiary Education Centre (COTEC) initiative were also at the meeting, with an aim to receive support from state government to upgrade and access parts of disused TAFE buildings.
Port Augusta Mayor and Chair of the Spencer Gulf Cities Association Sam Johnson said industry experts can see the benefits of having locally available and relevant training.
“On average there are around 2500 students from the Upper Spencer Gulf and environs enrolled in vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate study every year, with many of these enrollments for online courses or based within capital city universities,” Mayor Johnson said.
“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.”
At their final 2017 meeting, the Mayors made the establishment of university study centres in both Port Pirie and Port Augusta a top priority for 2018.
Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer said the region needs a strong local workforce with the right qualifications after suffering from an increase in ‘fly-in, fly-out’ professional and technical workers.
“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,” Mayor Breuer said.
Dr Close said she supported the principles of the COTEC model and understood the importance of aligning local workforce needs to young people’s desires to stay within their local area.
“I support bringing university study centres to the Upper Spencer Gulf region and I am willing to work with the Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group towards achieving that,” she said.
“In addition to helping facilitate the in-kind support through TAFE SA, I have also approached the federal government to express my support for the COTEC proposal.”
Dr Close said state government has invested over $400 million, including a $1 million job creation and support package, in regional areas since 2013-14.