Opinion Piece by Peter Clough

It is so important that our community has access to adequate Tertiary Education. A recent study by the Regional Expert Advisory Group commissioned by the Federal Government, indicated that Regional Australian residents are around 40% less likely to gain a higher level tertiary education qualification and less than half as likely to gain a Bachelor and above qualification by the time they are 35 compared to individuals from Metropolitan areas .

The Tomaree Peninsula with its approximately 30,000 residents has limited accessibility to many Tertiary Level Courses. The Tomaree Peninsula Tertiary Education Working Group established by the Tomaree Business Chamber to enhance the opportunity for our residents to access higher education has to date been a successful initiative by receiving a commitment from the State Government to establish a CLC – Connected Learning Centre which is a new TAFE model for Regional NSW and have been advised that a site is currently being investigated.

In my view there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure we are meeting the skills and educational needs of our key industries on the Tomaree Peninsula, For example Tourism and Hospitality, Aged Care and the Marine Industry. We need to ensure we are meeting the demands of industry to ensure we remain competitive particularly in the Tourism sector as there are many destinations in NSW seeking the Tourism dollar.

Our Council invests significant funds into attracting visitors to Port Stephens and therefore it is so important that we have trained qualified personnel to meet the expectations of the visiting public particularly in hospitality so that we continue to have a competitive edge.

Education enhances employability and accordingly we need to ensure we invest wisely by having accessibility to good quality Tertiary Education which meets the needs of local industry.

Not only should we be providing additional educational opportunities for our Tomaree Peninsula secondary students, we should also be considering residents who may seek to re-enter the work force by providing easy and financial accessibility. The Proposed Connected Learning Centre (CLC) will of course be a major step forward in lifting the skill levels of our locals making them more employable.

Also, I believe it is fair to say that that communities who invest and develop strong education standards are more likely to grow economically and have a skilled workforce.

I believe we also need to seek Government support for more investment in resourcing to transition our secondary students into further education. Maybe a Regional Study Hub on the Tomaree Peninsula could be an opportunity.

Peter Clough

2 November 2019