TAFE Queensland has opened a new high-tech training hub at its Ashmore campus. The fit-out, which cost $1.5 million, boasts state-of-the-art equipment and will benefit more than 1,200 electrical and air conditioning and refrigeration students.
The hub has eight coldrooms, including two with freezer room options. There is a practical workshop area, a hybrid practical and theory room, and a space dedicated to the delivery of data communications technology. It also has 36 live wiring bays, allowing students to complete their practical wiring assessment in an electrically safe environment.
For air conditioning training, there are wall-mounted splits and ducted air conditioning systems that are part of a branch control system. Rather than installing a ceiling, the equipment has been left exposed so the students can simply look up to reference the equipment they are discussing in class.
TAFE Queensland refrigeration teacher Clayton Milford says the new facilities are already making a huge difference.
“Having the new area up there plus the coldrooms gives us greater scope for teaching pracs that are relevant to what the guys do out in the field,” he says.
“And you can imagine, you get halfway through a conversation about the theory, and in 10 steps you’ve got examples of it ready to go. It’s great because the students can get their hands on and start having a bit of a play.”
Some educators have expressed concerns that apprentices are exposed to a very limited range of work when on the job – most commonly installing split systems. The new training hub shows them the wider variety of jobs that the industry offers.
“It’s the very first time some of these students have had the opportunity to play with a coldroom,” says Milford. “They might have been solely involved with air conditioning, so to get the chance to lay their hands on a system and make something -20°C and go inside, it’s good. Some of the kids here they do a pipe up and get the thing running, and all they want to do is sit inside! It’s fun, and they go back and tell their friends. It makes my job a lot easier too. You don’t have to struggle to try and keep things relevant and interesting.”
The only issue Milford has identified is that some classes are running overtime.
“I’ll get second- and third-year (students) up there, and it’ll be a case of, ‘OK boys, it’s lunchtime, so five minutes, let’s pack up.’ And then I’ll be back in five minutes – ‘Come on boys, let’s make things safe, we’ve got to get out the door.’
“Then 10 minutes later, ‘Come on lads, let’s go, we can get back to it.’ It’s quite difficult to get them disengaged now! So they’re really enjoying everything.”
The launch comes at a time of increased focus on the VET sector. In the lead-up to the recent federal election, the coalition promised $525 million towards boosting 80,000 apprenticeships and vocational education and training. Recently we have seen state investment in regional Victoria, as well as industry collaboration.
TAFE Queensland General Manager on the Gold Coast, Karen Dickinson, says the new facilities have significantly enhanced the quality of learning for students
“TAFE Queensland is training our future tradies,” she says. “Our investment is invaluable when it comes to giving Gold Coasters the skills they need for the jobs of the future.”
Enrolments at the Ashmore campus are up by more than 200 compared to last year.