Further to last week’s comment piece on the government’s attitude towards funding public education providers such as TAFE, Byron Community College director Richard Vinycomb approached The Echo to explain how community colleges also rely on government funding, while often filling the gaps where TAFE and private providers are not present at the local level.
Vinycomb says, ‘Community Colleges (as community- governed enterprises) are a very good alternative vocational education provider in NSW to TAFE, and also another model of what sets us proudly apart from say QLD, which only has the TAFE or privately owned providers.
‘We have the capacity to offer some of the most relevant courses, even ones that TAFE does not offer at all.’
Vinycomb says that the Byron Community College qualifications came about in the late 90s after TAFE decided not to build a campus in Byron.
‘Then-mayor of Byron Shire, Ian Kingston, and two high school principals, upon hearing that North Coast Institute of TAFE would not build a campus in Byron, asked me if there was anything further we (then ACE) could do… so we added a range of qualifications to our scope of national registration, and started successfully running them ourselves.’
While some of the overall bucket of funding was diverted last year to the Smart and Skilled scheme, a model that funds organisations to train students that includes TAFE, Vinycomb says that model also helps fund Byron Community College.
‘Colleges in Lismore and Ballina also offer their own locally relevant qualifications.
‘We are very efficient with administration, achieve great results, have very good student feedback, and are just as accountable for quality expenditure of taxpayer money as TAFE or private providers should be.
‘In addition, we integrate these funded vocational programs as part of the whole picture of what we do, linking with the other community education opportunities such as literacy and numeracy, support for disadvantaged learners, and quality-of-life courses.’