Newcastle gains robotic heart with TAFE SkillsPoint headquarters

HEADS TOGETHER: TAFE NSW's David Leask and HMS chief operating officer Bryce Parker with a radio-controlled HMS200 robotic miniloader at the launch of SkillsPoint Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS TOGETHER: TAFE NSW's David Leask and HMS chief operating officer Bryce Parker with a radio-controlled HMS200 robotic miniloader at the launch of SkillsPoint Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

THE state’s head of TAFE says the success of the first SkillsPoints headquarters in Newcastle, to specialise in innovative manufacturing, robotics and science, should be measured in “outcomes, not enrolments”.

Jon Black, the managing director of TAFE NSW, and state Assistant Minister for Skills Adam Marshall opened the first of nine new future-focused training centres at Hamilton TAFE on Friday.

Mr Black faced questions from the state opposition earlier this month after leaked documents showed TAFE enrolments in the Hunter and Central Coast had fallen by 6.5 per cent in the year to July 2017, but he said overall enrolments aren’t the right criterion by which to judge the merits of SkillsPoints.

“For me it’s about outcomes to address our state’s skills shortage. In construction we need at least 40,000 workers and 20,000 in hospitality,” Mr Black said.

“Certificate 3 enrolments are up 20 per cent. We should stop talking about enrolment and start talking about economic outcomes.”

The SkillsPoint centres will invite peak industry bodies and employers to co-create training courses with TAFE NSW to upskill and future-proof the workforce, the government says. 

Asked which companies will be invited to participate, Mr Black said, “for me, it’s about engaging with everyone”.

The Newcastle SkillsPoints headquarters will be led by Hunter TAFE head teacher of manufacturing and mechanical engineering Karen Humphreys.

With the input of experts such as drone and robotics developers, students from the Hunter and across the state will have access – often through technology such as virtual reality simulators – to training tailored to their chosen fields.

“Each SkillsPoint will work directly with industry stakeholders to design the course content and delivery to ensure training is matched with what employers and industry need,” Mr Marshall said.

“It may very well be, in some cases, that the answer will be a bespoke course. That’s where we’re getting to.”

The scissors for Mr Marshall to cut the ribbon opening the centre on Friday were delivered to him by a radio-controlled HMS200 robotic miniloader, a Cardiff-manufactured piece of machinery now gaining traction with mining operators in South America.

“We have an electronics and connections apprentice going through, but we’re recruiting at the moment and finding it very difficult,” HMS Group of Companies Australia’s chief operating officer Bryce Parker said.

“That is where we can see a clear benefit from this collaboration.”

SkillsPoint in Newcastle will employ a “core team” of eight to 15 educators.

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