Govt vows to build new tech college

By ALEX EASTON

THE Federal Government has vowed to keep its promise to build a new technical college on the Northern Rivers, despite leaving it off a list of colleges it announced last Friday.

A bid led by the North Coast Institute of TAFE and Ballina High School had been widely expected to be named among the new technical colleges announced last week, but was left off with Vocational Education Minister Gary Hardgrave citing 'technical issues' with the bid.

Mr Hardgrave yesterday told The Northern Star those issues centred around State Government involvement in the bid, with Federal funding for the college to be paid to the NSW Department of Education.

Mr Hardgrave said the bid by the TAFE and Ballina High remained a strong bid and needed only minor changes to be made suitable.

He said the Federal Government remained committed to the Northern Rivers technical college and that an announcement on the college would be made before the end of the year, and that the college would be up and running by 2007 at the latest.

North Coast Institute of TAFE director Neil Black said he was yet to speak to the Government about its 'issues', but thought industrial relations issues played a bigger role than the address the cheque was to be sent to.

Mr Black said the TAFE/Ballina High bid, backed by groups such as TURSA and Australian Business Limited, had not met Federal Government criteria by refusing to employ staff under in- dividual contracts.

He said the TAFE/Ballina High bid, lodged in May, offered the ability to change the college's focus to suit the needs of local employers.

Mr Black pointed out that TAFE and Ballina High had both recently won national awards for vocational training.

"Here you have the two leading vocational education providers in Australia partnering together," Mr Black said. "I'm really disappointed, to be quite frank, that we're still not approved to go with this proposal."

Under the bid, the college would be run through an in- dependent local council or board, with students enrolling through Ballina High and being funded through TAFE.

Mr Black agreed Commonwealth funding would have been paid via the NSW Department of Education, but said all funds would have gone to TAFE, which already managed its own budget.

The TAFE also raised another $17 million for itself each year, also paid via the Department of Education.



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