Hunter TAFE cuts trade courses

TWO of the Hunter’s traditional trades could be on the way out, with the decision to axe two courses at Hunter TAFE a sign the industries are struggling.

Courses in boat building and metallurgy, used in steel making, have both suffered at the hands of state government budget cuts that last week resulted in 35 courses being slashed.

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It means there will be nowhere on the east coast to specifically study metallurgy, while the only place to study boat building will be at Meadowbank, Sydney.

Hunter TAFE said it was reflecting changing industry needs.

Boat building took a hit in the Hunter following the collapse of the luxury boat market during the global financial crisis, but shipwrights are still needed to repair and maintain watercraft.

The steel industry is also going through a downturn, but steel continues to be made in Newcastle and the industry could have to look to the United Kingdom for metallurgists.

Metallurgy was once a thriving subject because of the region’s steel industry, but Hunter TAFE’s enrolments had shrunk to just three students.

The students hailed from employers such as OneSteel and Bradken.

Metallurgy is intrinsic to a lot of manufacturing and deals with the extraction of iron ore, smelting and failures of components.

The Australian Steel Institute said that, in light of the development, it would consult with its two steel maker members, OneSteel and BlueScope, about their needs.

A spokesman for the Shipwrights and Boat Builders Association of NSW said any loss of courses was a loss to the industry, especially boat builders in Taree and along the coast.

A Hunter TAFE spokeswoman said there had been a ‘‘significant decrease’’ in demand for both boat building and metallurgy and existing students would be allowed to finish or, in the case of metallurgy, transfer to engineering.

She said students could study metallurgy skills through distance education providers.

‘‘[These] trade areas will continue to be monitored with the view to offer these courses again,’’ she said.

Industry experts said that once such workshop-based subjects were scrapped they were hard to resurrect.

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