Course set for education shape-up
THE future of education on the Northern Rivers will be found not in sprawling school and university campuses, but in community halls and modest training rooms.
As the region’s population explodes by about 70,000 people between now and 2036, government figures predict the number of school-age children will actually decline.
That sets the region’s not-for-profit Adult Community Education (ACE) program in pole position for growth in education and training over the next 26 years.
ACE principal Kerry Johnson said the program’s life-long learning classes – in areas such as languages, cookery and photography – would appeal to ageing baby boomers and Gen Xers looking for constructive ways to use the spare time given to them by retirement.
However, ACE’s vocational courses are also set to boom as younger members of the community are trained to take up positions in areas such as nursing homes and home and community care so they could look after the older of the region’s new residents.
“Our business has grown more in vocational areas,” Ms Johnson said.
On current figures, vocational training accounts for about 80 per cent of ACE’s courses, while ‘life enrichment’ courses cover the remaining 20pc.
Ms Johnson was unable to say what age groups dominated the two streams of courses, but said the enrichment courses had been consistent strong performers.
She said the number of people entering vocational programs was also expected to increase and that government grants were now encouraging training providers to teach more mature-age workers.
“That’s about keeping people in the workforce until later (in their lives) and providing opportunities for mature-age people,” she said.
“We will respond to those calls as they happen.”
Ms Johnson said the ‘life enrichment’ courses would also give older residents a chance to offer their experience to others in the Northern Rivers community by becoming trainers.
“People in the community come in and say, ‘here’s my expertise, do you think people will want to do it’,” she said.
“That part of the business is driven by the community and what they want to do.
“We have a lot of long-term trainers in our courses ... they have really diverse backgrounds and the skills of some people are in areas you wouldn’t expect.
“Having people in the community who are keen to impart their knowledge is a good thing.”