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Speech:Trades Training Centre- Roxburgh Park College, August 3,2014

 

Nowhere is the dire need to create jobs for young people and to support trades training centres more evident than in my electorate. Youth unemployment is at a 15-year high in Victoria, with socially disadvantaged areas such as Hume being ranked ninth Australia wide as one of the most difficult areas to find work for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. The imminent closure of the Ford motor factory and Qantas continuing to lay off workers in recent times have further underscored the need to provide training and create job opportunities for our local young people. I recently received correspondence from Mr Fernando Ianni, the Principal of Roxburgh College, the lead school in a trades training centre program which includes Craigieburn Secondary School, Gladstone Park Secondary College and Mount Ridley College, raising the school's grave concerns about the time it is taking to get the trades training centre up and running. It was only last year that Mr Ianni, I and others were overjoyed that the then Labor government had allocated $4.5 million to build a trades training centre at Roxburgh College. For my electorate it means that the much needed facility would provide essential educational programs for post-16-year-old students wanting to follow a vocational pathway.

The trades training centre was aimed at addressing skill shortages in traditional trades and emerging industries by equipping the college with the industry-standard facilities it needed. It will deliver qualifications in automotive, electro-technology, engineering, furnishing and hospitality, and it will address skills shortages in cabinetmaking, cooking, motor mechanics, sheet metal trades and telecommunications.The trades training centre is an absolute necessity in an area where students face interrupted learning, low levels of literacy and numeracy, as well as having to provide for the needs of many who come from non-English speaking backgrounds. It is to my dismay that I now learn that the trades training centre is in danger of toppling over because of the time that it is taking this government to deliver on the funding allocated in 2013-14 budget. I have already written to the federal Minister for Education and to the Assistant Minister for Education about this and await their response. It is astounding for a government that has talked so much about freeing the system from red tape—indeed, it has allocated days in parliamentary sitting weeks to abolish red tape—to overlook how the slow wheels of bureaucracy are hampering the educational future of my local young constituents. Politics is interfering in my constituents' future prospects and not in a positive way, I am afraid. In rebadging the trades training centre program as the trade skills centre project and announcing an independent review of what the government calls a Labor initiative, the government is playing politics with my young people's future.

Roxburgh College has already prepared a concept design and provided quantity surveyor estimates and it has met all documentation requirements. In fact, was left with the expectation that the building process was going to commence in 2014 and that the trades training centre would be open for the 2015 academic year. Instead, the principal informs me that they have not moved 'off the blocks' even though 'our spikes are on'. Mr Ianni says the schools have responded to several requests from the Department of Education to clarify some of the detail, but to date they are still unable to tender for the architect. This is an appointment which needs to happen so that the college can move into the schematic design stage to gain a more accurate bearing on the building and the finances for the project. Mr Ianni says that the delay is setting the project further behind. Again, it is the students, I am afraid, who are going to miss out. The college faces having to compromise its planning for the 2015 academic timetable as they are uncertain of the outcome. So this continued uncertainty has now caused the building cost to alter and will ultimately result in the college not achieving what they intended to do because of a shortage, potentially, of money. Mr Ianni says that, by the time they are finally at the stage of turning the sod, material and labour costs will be higher than they would have been if the building had commenced in 2013, as originally planned. They are also concerned that the school's contribution to the project now has to be paid up-front. Again, this is disappointing given that, if there is any cost saving, the contribution should be directed to improving and adding more to the scope of the new facility.