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All’s well for dream facility

New Sunshine Coast health and well-being precinct ready to serve the region. 

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. TE Lawrence The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

When the federal government announced funding of $46.8 million to enable the $63 million Sunshine Coast Health and Social Wellbeing Learning Precinct at Kawana to proceed, the dream to develop a modern TAFE facility adjacent to Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) became a reality.

The precinct is a contemporary example of the infrastructure described in the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Report and is designed with the region’s future in mind. Each year, about 10,000 patients travel to Brisbane for complex treatment. SCUH and the new TAFE campus at Kawana will provide the facility, skills and staff so this travel is no longer required.

SCUH will be a tertiary teaching hospital offering a range of new and expanded healthcare services. It is scheduled to open in 2016 with 450 beds, is expected to grow to 738 beds by 2021, and can reach more than 900 beds if needed. SCUH will also include the Skills, Academic and Research Centre. SARC will deliver training programs for existing health professionals and hands-on clinical experience for students training to become health professionals. It will also assist health professionals undertaking postgraduate training and innovative clinical research. It will be delivered in partnership with the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, Sunshine Coast University and Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE. SARC is part of the institute’s vision to become a recognised leader of skills training and research in Australia.

Sunshine Coast TAFE has been looking for an opportunity to establish a presence to service the rapidly growing area on the southern end of the coast for some time. That presence will help train the extra 241,000 workers the Community Services and Health Industry will need in the future.

The health and well-being precinct is a  once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us as educators to make a difference to Australians. It won’t just be TAFE occupying the site; key partners will also be in the 10,000-square-metre facility, adding a new dimension to our institute’s customer value.

This kind of adaptive leadership is not new to Sunshine Coast TAFE. For a relatively small institute, we have made a big impact on the Queensland and Australia VET scene.

In looking for challenges and new frontiers, our institute has also established a reputation for its work in the Pacific. Australia Pacific Technical College is a centre of training excellence, helping the people of the Pacific region achieve Australian-standard skills and qualifications for a wide range of vocational careers. Campus locations include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Sunshine Coast TAFE, in conjunction with Box Hill Institute of TAFE, manages this project on behalf of AUSAID.

We are also industry leaders as the first TAFE Queensland institute to implement a Reconciliation Action Plan, with a strategy to ease the transition from school to TAFE and increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in VET at Sunshine Coast TAFE. Our commitment has raised our Indigenous student populations to well above the national and state averages. Through support and consultation on academic, personal and career matters, we have increased the completion rate for our Indigenous students and facilitated pathways to higher VET qualifications.

We were also the first Australian educational organisation to be certified carbon neutral and are a member of a community that is passionate about sustainability.

Through reducing electricity consumption, doubling our recycling rates, establishing Australia’s only Sustainability Discovery Centre and developing new initiatives towards a sustainable future, we have become a source of knowledge in this area and a frontrunner for sustainability in our region.

VET is a sector that all industrialised economies have had to rely on for their advancement; and it is a sector that employs large numbers of highly skilled people.

With 58 TAFE institutes across Australia and the Pacific, TAFE is a brand that has a long history of delivering high quality, reliable products and it has the credentials to prove it. With over 2000 providers in the VET marketplace, quality has become a point of parity, rather than a point of differentiation.

Competition is increasing in the sector. In the past, Sunshine Coast TAFE mainly competed against other local institutions; however “elsewhere” is now a ready option for our students. They can study online, intra-state, interstate or internationally, with a range of providers, including universities. As educators, we work to create relationships and agreements with other providers to support student choice and movement across sectors, jurisdictions and national boundaries. We understand employers want knowledge and application of skills, not just knowledge. We also recognise the new age requires adaptable workers who can multitask.

We understand learning is an attitude and that Sunshine Coast TAFE graduates are distinguished by this hallmark. Our graduates are destined to be sought after by employers and our partners are helping us deliver on this promise.

Our partnerships define us and deepen our reputations as authorities in our chosen fields. In a world where academia increasingly sits outside our institutions, they ensure our longevity and relevance to new generations of learners.

Millennial students are the largest and most diverse generation of learners, whose education occurs best when situated in an authentic context.

A generation of digital natives, they are determined, driven achievers who depend on technology and their support systems. Through blended delivery, increased mobility and enhanced customisation, TAFE will meet the challenges of the 21st century and refine our knowledge and skills to incorporate students’ goals and motivations and match future learning experiences with collaborative delivery and advanced learning resources.

We look forward to the year ahead and welcome new challenges as we prepare this generation of learners for the new frontier.

See you there.

Leeza Boyce is director of Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE.

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