The Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee has refused to abandon plans to sell the Scone TAFE campus in the Upper Hunter during Question Time at NSW Parliament.
The Shadow Minister for Skills and TAFE Jihad Dib pressed the Liberal Minister about the expressions of interest he has sought for the purchase of the site and the promise Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen made to the community that the campus would not close.
“Why are you selling off a TAFE campus in the Hunter region, where almost one in five young people are unemployed?” he asked.
In complete disregard for future generations of the Upper Hunter, Mr Lee stated it would be ‘ridiculous’ to keep the exact same infrastructure.
The Government is planning to briefly lease parts of the property back to TAFE. But within a couple of years, TAFE NSW will have no presence on the site and the campus will be fully privatised. According to the property listing, the facility will be vacated by TAFE NSW following the opening on the Connected Learning Centre in the Scone CBD in July 2019.
Mr Dib said: “We’re seeing a pattern with this Government opening Connected Learning Centres at the expense of providing fully funded TAFE facilities.
“How can we expect students to learn hands-on and practical skills sitting in front of a computer?
“This Government has run TAFE into the ground. They’ve sold campuses, sacked staff and cut courses. They’ve already gutted our TAFE system now they want to sell off what’s left.”
The Shadow Minister for the Hunter Clayton Barr added: “Almost one in five young people are unemployed in the Hunter. TAFE should be a Government priority to boost job security for young people and address skills gaps. Right now Scone and other country towns all over NSW need TAFE more than ever.”
The Labor spokesperson for the Upper Hunter John Graham added: “As a direct result of Government neglect, a generation is missing out on employment and job security. Young people need support and access to courses that will give them vital skills and experience.”