A community-owned tertiary education centre opening in Port Pirie aims to stop the Iron Triangle brain drain and address skills shortages.
The $2.3 million Uni Hub Spencer Gulf will open at the town's former library, on Ellen St, for its first intake of students at the start of the academic year in February.
The three Upper Spencer Gulf councils, Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Augusta, spearheaded the Hub to create a workforce to meet the region's industry needs.
Project coordinator Reg Dennis said only 11.3 per cent of residents in the Iron Triangle hold teritary level qualifications, compared to all of SA at 23.3 per cent. "As a consequence, our industries have difficulties in recruiting for many skilled positions," Mr Dennis said.
"We're trying to slow down the brain drain of Year 12 students leaving the region to go to universities and link up with Adelaide businesses.
"Our goal is to grow our own solutions and to lift our overall capability in the region to attract future industry." The regional study hub is still finalising courses with three industry partners, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and Central Queensland University. Courses being considered are a Masters and bachelor degree in education, and bachelor degrees each in nursing, pyschology, and social work.
Mr Dennis said the hub did not want to "duplicate what was being done well" referring to UniSA's Whyalla campus, but rather would focus on the region's skills shortages.
"We spoke to various industry contracts throughout the region to find out the areas of need, as far as how easy it was to attract these skilled workers to the region," he said.
"We also needed to establish whether there was a demand from the community to enroll in these qualifications." In the past six weeks alone, 140 residents have expressed an interest in the courses ahead of a marketing campaign next month.
The Hub was made possible after the councils this year secured a $1.11 million Federal Government grant from its $222.3 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package.
A further $1.15 million was secured in partner contributions and in-kind support.
Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said the Hub culminated several years of work with industry, education and government partners to develop a model for higher education.
It followed the South Australia Centre for Economics highlighting in 2012 education was the foundation for growth, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Spencer Gulf.
By 2014 a further economic report highlighted a lack of scientific and technical expertise in the region was a barrier to future growth. A second hub is expected to open in Port Augusta in 2020.
Originally posted in the Adelaide Advertiser