Highlighting the capacity that community colleges have to meet the state’s regional economic development challenges was a key element of the professional forum organised by Community Colleges Australia (CCA) recently.
Ben Franklin MLC, parliamentary secretary for northern NSW, opened the forum saying that ‘Community colleges are key to activating economic potential and creating a regional skilled workforce.They play an extremely important role in our regional communities’.
Franklin said some NSW community colleges such as WEA Hunter, have been active for more than 100 years.
‘Community colleges have helped thousands of disadvantaged, regional and remote learners get the education they need to join the workforce and support themselves,’ Franklin said.
The state member for Ballina (Greens NSW spokesperson for regional development) Tamara Smith welcomed attendees to her electorate.
‘I see the goal of achieving economic sustainability for our region as a top priority,’ said Ms Smith.
‘We need the kind of partnerships being explored by the community colleges with local businesses because those collaborations have the potential to generate new industries and jobs that in turn bring export dollars into our regional economies.’
In his presentation, CCA CEO Dr Don Perlgut spoke of how community colleges helped to overcome Australia’s ‘tyranny of distance’, the importance of vocational education and training (VET) in regional areas, and how not-for-profit NSW community VET providers over-perform in delivering to regional and rural areas and to disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous Australians and people with a disability.
The forum was held at the ecologically sustainable headquarters of Byron Community College in Mullumbimby.
This was the first time in regional Australia where a number of influential organisations concerned with both economic sustainability and community resilience have been able to bring together our current ideas and strengths.
This now forms a stronger basis whereby we can pitch solutions for increased public and private investment in new collaborative projects that will benefit us all.
Dr Perlgut added, ‘CCA is preparing a comprehensive report for the NSW Department of Industry on our research and consultations. This report will include positive models for how the community education sector is able to increase its contribution to NSW regional and rural economic development.’
Richard Vinycomb is Byron Community College director.