As industry awaits for the commencement of the Naval Shipbuilding College in Adelaide, the South Australian Liberal Opposition has promised to establish at least one new technical college in an effort to prepare students for work in the defence sector.
The Liberals said, if elected, it would undertake an expression of interest process to find a school, or consortium of schools, to partner with it for the establishment of the college.
"In particular, our state needs to properly prepare for the naval shipbuilding jobs boom by reinvesting in the skilled jobs training sector to guarantee the lion’s share of the new shipbuilding jobs go to South Australians," state Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said.
The college is expected to be based in Adelaide's western suburbs. It is currently unfunded but the commitment falls under the opposition's pledge to invest $100 million to create more than 20,000 new places in the vocational education and training (VET) system.
It is currently unclear how, or if, this defence technical college would work with the federal government's Naval Shipbuilding College, which is still yet to open despite being set to commence operations on January 1 this year.
Defence Connect understands the companies vying for the contract to run the federal government's Naval Shipbuilding 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 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 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.
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"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 former 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 former 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.