Construction is underway for Gunnedah TAFE’s $2.5 million federally funded upgrade to improve the early childcare training facilities.

The project is supported through the government’s TAFE Technology Fund.

The NSW Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan was in Gunnedah on Tuesday to talk with locals and witness the construction.

The upgrades will create simulated learning spaces including an indoor playroom and an outdoor play space with a sandpit and shade sail which can be used for observation study. It is expected to be finished later in the year.

The block will be outfitted with new technology, including connected learning capability to connect with other TAFE NSW campus locations across the state.

As the need for teachers continues, it affords the current staff with an ability to teach across the state virtually.

“It will enable the delivery of the service here but also remotely to a number of locations with virtual systems,” Mr Whan said.

“It is really good for people in an area which has got high demand and a shortage of people. You are still getting those interactions with teachers. It is not that you are just sitting there and watching … a lecture on tape.

“In this case, you actually have got that one-on-one contact with teachers, support and things to help you get through your study.”

When asked why Gunnedah was chosen for these upgrades he stated there is aim to meet demand where there are teachers and students.

“Obviously there are issues around early childhood and childcare right across rural NSW as well as NSW overall,” he said.

“We have got 155 TAFE campuses across NSW so we would like to try and make sure that we are investing in our facilities and helping where we have got the staff particularly because that is often one of the challenges as well, getting staff in to actually teach,” Mr Whan said.

The Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan was at the Gunnedah Campus while students were practising their barista skills. TAFE students in back row, Dakoda Rumbel, Lily Grant, Rochelle Costello, Joanna Villegas, Matilda McCrae and Ava Mackley. Front, TAFE NSW chief operating officer Patrick Woods, teacher Stuart Hawke and Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan.

“So where we have got that, it is really good to be able to meet the local demand and also help people to avoid travelling too far for their training as well.

“The [Gunnedah] campus obviously has quite a bit of space on it and we are always trying to match our delivery of service with demand and industry demand for the area so I am aware sometimes people say ‘we would like to see more delivered’ but often we have got to get that student load to actually make that happen as well and to bring the teachers in to do it.”

“I would like to thank my federal counterpart, Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor for investing in this important program.”

Mr Whan hopes the upgrade will incentivise more people to consider an early childhood education career.

“We need lots more coming into childcare and I think there are a couple of drivers in that,” Mr Whan said.

“Firstly, childcare wages have not been all that attractive for people and hopefully at a federal level soon, you might see those start to improve and some of that funding for providers come through from the federal government to make it a more attractive option in terms of the wages but then we need to have the facilities and the teachers who can actually train and skill those people up and that is an important part of it.”

Someone who will benefit from these upgrades will be Gunnedah TAFE early childcare education teacher Michelle Gosper who has experience delivering virtual classes for students around the state.

“I run lots of classes every week,” she said.

“We can have people from Dubbo to Katoomba and it gives them the flexibility to be able to work in the industry or in another industry if they are changing careers and still be able to study with TAFE.

“We are very excited to have [the construction] up and running.”

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