Robin, what can you tell us about some of the work TAFE NSW is currently undertaking across Western Sydney?
With over 140,000 course enrolments we are the major provider of employment related skills in Western Sydney. Around 45,000 students are based in our ten campuses which stretch from the Hills Shire and Richmond on the region’s north and Blacktown through Mount Druitt and Penrith to Katoomba and Wentworth Falls with a further 100,000 studying off campus largely through our online arm called OTEN.
We complement the work of the University of Western Sydney – they educate and train school teachers and registered nurses – whilst we educate and train electricians, auto engineers, chefs, child care workers and beauticians.
Both sets of occupations are critical for individual, business and community prosperity. There is now some overlap between us and UWS as we both train managers and accountants and TAFE Western Sydney offers degrees in Child Care though the majority of our students are enrolled in Certificate and Diplomas. We do get on well with them.
Besides online we are increasingly running our education and skilling programs off campus. We have a major partnership with Lendlease at their Barangaroo development in Sydney. We have a 'pop up' college on the site where workers and subcontractors can gain skills and qualifications in everything from rigging and dogging to IT, literacy and numeracy skills and supervision. We have just enrolled our 500th apprentice there and trained many thousands of other workers. Though not located within Western Sydney, the Barangaroo Skills Exchange (BSX) trains many workers from Western Sydney who can in the future use those skills directly in our region. We are working on using the BSX pop up college model for some major infrastructure projects in the west.
How is this work contributing to improved outcomes for both the region and wider Sydney?
We are about improving productivity and workforce participation. The skills we develop enable firms to compete for new contracts and offer new products. Workers can work more safely reducing absences. Higher skilled workers are not only more productive but the individuals earn more. If you do not have a post school qualification you are 20% more likely to be unemployed. Our programs help people in Western Sydney get a new job or a better job and help them keep those jobs.
We recently held our student and employer excellence awards at Penrith Panthers. It was full of stories of people who had moved from sometimes quite challenging personal circumstances into a job. Others had used their TAFE qualification to get onto a degree course. We also celebrated employers – one of whom was so impressed with our training they brought two of their US Vice Presidents along to help celebrate.
I suppose really we are in the 'opportunity business'.
What excites you most about your role and working in Western Sydney?
The potential of the region. I think through better and more skills qualifications we can help the region and the individuals who live in it grow and improve their economic, social and cultural circumstances.
We are also in an exciting time in terms of the ways our course delivery is changing. We use the web, video conferencing and onsite delivery almost as much as our campus classrooms, workshops and lecture theatres.
I never have a dull moment.