Port Pirie or Port Augusta may soon be home to a Community Owned Tertiary Education Centre (COTEC) that will enable students seeking tertiary level education to remain in regional locations.
Mayors from Spencer Gulf cities came together last Monday, along with the State Minister for Education Susan Close and Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Kyam Mayer to further discuss the progression of the project.
Port Pirie’s Mayor, John Rohde says the Mayors have been working on the project for a while now and upon the return of a report completed by the executive officer of Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group Inc., Anita Crisp; it has been revealed that COTEC is a viable option for this region.
“We have been working on a COTEC project for quite a while now and that started out of concern among the region for access for young people to higher up education. We took it upon ourselves to try and find a solution.”
“COTEC has this happy medium where you can do an online course, but there is somebody local that you can go to in order to discuss issues and can provide mentoring and support. To have something that you can go to locally, instead of seeking support in Adelaide. That is a key component.”
Mayor Sam Johnson from Port Augusta Council has said that on average there are approximately 2,5000 students from the Upper Spencer Gulf and environs enrolled study each year; and their aim is to establish a hub where students studying a range of courses, at a range of different universities, can come together locally.
There has been five universities who are interested in the centre, this includes, Flinders University, University of Adelaide, University of Central Queensland who are already a key player in the COTEC model, Academy and TAFE.
The Mayors are largely focusing on being able to keep the best and brightest in local areas and see them involved in their community, rather than leave and never return.
“If we can keep them locally and get them to still be involved in the community, then they can grow. If they are still here and doing a course, but they can still interact with sporting clubs”, Mayor John Rohde said.
At this stage, Mayors have recognised parts of the TAFE buildings in Port Pirie and Port Augusta as a possible location for the COTEC site to be placed.
“We started speaking to State and Federal Governments. Particularly the Federal Government who has been supportive of COTECs elsewhere. They like the model and we have been discussing to try and progress it. We have applied for grant funding through the Federal Government to see if we can get money for the running of the COTEC and with the State minister to help us find a place to house it.”
All three cities, Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Augusta have suffered from an increase in a fly in and fly out workforce and Mayor Breuer of Whyalla says that if this is not addressed, it will be come an impediment to our future growth and economic diversification.
“Large organisations are keen to have graduates within their organisations and if we can make it the people that are here, and give them the opportunity to learn the skills that they need to have a high level skill, by all means that is the best option. We can always have people in from else where to work in these organisations but if would be really good if we can concentrate on people from the local area”, Mayor Rohde said.
“I am really pleased that we are continuing to try and find a way forward for regional students and those that are looking to improve their skills. The three Mayors have been particularly keen to work together and we looked forward to what we can find out from the federal government in the next few weeks.”