If ever we need access to high quality training centres it is now.
Our local economy is about to face a significant change as we move from being an exporter of energy, namely thermal coal, to becoming an importer of renewable energy and with that hopefully the regeneration of manufacturing industries.
Plans by TransGrid to build transmission lines connecting the Hunter to the western renewable energy zone are but one example of this transition.
You can list others such as green steel, which is currently being produce in Newcastle thanks to a collaboration between the University of NSW especially Professor Veena Sahajwallaand and the US owned Moly-Cop operation in Waratah.
In Muswellbrook Shire Council's response to the proposed extension of the Mangoola open cut mine they talk about the need to develop a more diverse economy and the skills to service new and emerging industries. This sentiment is also held by our own Singleton Council.
Given this need to diversify our economy and the fact significant changes are happening and will continue to happen to our existing mine dependent economy, we really need to have the training facilities on our doorstep to accommodate this transition.
The TAFE system with local campuses has served our community for generations. It has not only provided vital skills based training but also local employment.
For people without the ability to travel to distant campuses, being able to obtain locally based training to enhance their chances of employment is not only vital to them but the community as a whole. Social cohesion is based on these basic services.
The Upper Hunter community wants and is calling out for a high quality TAFE system. It needs such a TAFE system to ensure the region is not left behind during the economic transition.
To downgrade TAFE be it at Scone, Muswellbrook or Singleton is counter intuitive. Are there plans to replace this educational system in the Upper Hunter? What will fill the void to skill future generations?
More skills training is needed to service the Hunter's future job market as we transition into a more renewable energy based economy, focused on localised manufacturing.
Skills will also be needed to adopt to changes in agricultural production to meet the needs of a growing and consumer aware society.