Ballina misses out on tech college

By ZOE SATHERLEY

A BETRAYAL of our school leavers is how Jenny Macklin sees the Federal Government's failure to fund a Lismore/Ballina technical college.

The Federal Deputy Labor leader and Shadow Minister for Education and Training said school leavers will now miss out on apprenticeships and other job opportunities until 2012.

The new colleges to be built in 2006 and 2007 have been announced, leaving the fate of a Lismore/Ballina college in limbo until at least 2008.

Even if one is funded then it will take another four years before skilled tradespeople are produced, Ms Macklin said.

She said the Howard Government's failure to fund the college would leave local businesses and families stranded at a time of a skills crisis.

However Federal Vocational and Technical Education Minister Gary Hardgrave yesterday said Lismore/Ballina's failure to win funding did not mean the college would not eventually get the go-ahead.

He blamed 'technical issues' created by the inclusion of the State Government in the local bid for its failure to secure first-round funding.

In March, Mr Hardgrave visited Lismore full of promises about the new college, saying 300 new apprenticeships could be on offer to high school students by as early as first term next year.

He invited local agencies to work together to prepare a submission. A Ballina High School/North Coast Institute of TAFE consortium submitted its bid.

Its proposal, requiring about $15 million in capital and recurrent funding, was to have students studying for the HSC while completing an apprenticeship, encouraging youth into trades as a viable alternative to university.

It planned to start next year with 30 students with apprenticeships being supervised by North Coast TAFE.

However Mr Hardgrave said: "We know the NSW Government applied pressure to the people of the local com- munity to accommodate the State Government's involvement in the bid, and that meant technical issues were contained in the proposal.

"The building blocks of a good bid were certainly there, but there is more work to be done.

"This is about building a college for the Lismore/Ballina region, not something reflecting the desires of the State Education Department."



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