The government’s highly touted $25 million Naval Shipbuilding College that was due to commence operations on 1 January remains unopened, with the preferred tenderer still yet to be announced.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne told the audience at the fourth Submarine Science, Technology and Engineering Conference in Adelaide last November that an announcement on the preferred tenderer to run the college would be made by mid December, however no announcement has been made.
Defence Connect understands the companies vying for the contract to run the college are UK engineering support services multinational Babcock and American shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII).
TAFE SA, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the University of South Australia and the Defence Teaming Centre have also formed the Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium (DIESC) to provide training courses to the Naval Shipbuilding College. However, the federal government and South Australian state opposition have said recent troubles at TAFE SA have prompted the delay of the college opening.
"The Naval Shipbuilding College is going ahead as planned. Unfortunately, SA Labor's TAFE scandal has delayed the announcement of the successful tenderer until we are satisfied TAFE can deliver the courses we require," Minister Pyne said.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) handed down an audit in early December last year, which blocked students from enrolling in 14 courses because of poor standards.
"It is critical that the TAFE SA debacle doesn’t derail the consortium’s bid to provide shipbuilding skills training courses to the Naval Shipbuilding College," said state Liberal leader Steven Marshall.
"The establishment of the Maritime Shipbuilding College provides an excellent opportunity for South Australian organisations to become leaders in the provision of training courses for the naval shipbuilding industry.
"It would be an act of economic vandalism if the Weatherill government’s mishandling of the TAFE debacle sinks the bid from the Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium."
However, the state's outgoing Defence and Space Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith rejected these claims, noting none of the courses that were blocking future enrolments relate to shipbuilding.
"Issues identified at TAFE related to courses such as hairdressing, abattoir work and aged care. We don’t employ those categories at the shipyard. No TAFE courses relating to shipbuilding failed audits," the minister said on Twitter.
The ASQA audit of 16 courses resulted in the approval of two qualifications and the suspension of 14 qualifications – four of which are no longer offered – restricting TAFE SA’s ability to accept new enrolments in:
- Certificate III in Automotive Refinishing Technology
- Certificate III in Motorcycle Mechanical Technology
- Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
- Certificate III in Commercial Cookery
- Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing)
- Certificate IV in Leisure and Health
- Certificate III in Hairdressing
- Diploma of Visual Merchandising
- Diploma of Building and Construction
- Certificate III in Plumbing
Another batch of courses will undergo audit by ASQA in April.