A fully-fledged TAFE campus in the heart of Armadale has long been touted as a means of combatting its rising unemployment rate, and one local MP is determined to make it a reality.
After more than a decade of lobbying, Member for Armadale Tony Buti has ramped-up his campaign for a consolidated TAFE campus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – which would see the ageing facilities on Commerce Avenue upgraded.
The upgrade would also see a broader range of courses made available at the campus, which currently offers qualifications in business, community services, childcare and education support.
The proposal was the subject of a $20 million federal election promise early last year, with the Shorten Labor government announcing it would partner with the state government to build a new state-of-the-art TAFE in Armadale if it were successful in the 2019 election.
During the announcement, the state government acknowledged that the current facilities were out-dated and that the region had a “high need” for training programs providing pathways to long-term employment.
The latest census found that the proportion of disengaged youth in the city had increased to 14.8 per cent, much higher than the state’s average of 9.5 per cent – something the city said indicated a lack of access to education facilities and a population in need of targeted services.
With that number likely to have increased significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Armadale growing at a rate more than four times the state average, Dr Buti said he believed it was an opportune time to reassess the proposal and plan for the future.
“During this period of time in the wake of COVID-19, I believe there is an opportunity for the WA government to reassess priorities and look at having a comprehensive TAFE campus in Armadale,” he said.
“I believe Armadale is the ideal place for a TAFE.
“It’s a growing regional centre and it would bring in students from surrounding areas, including Roleystone, Harrisdale, Piara Waters and Byford.
“Obviously the development of a TAFE campus would also create jobs now through construction – which ideally would be local.
“It’s about offering a wider variety of courses and obtaining a better presence.
“A fully-fledged TAFE would complement the existing programs being run by several of the secondary schools in the area, too.
“While it’s an investment in our kids, it’s going to have a great economic stimulus – it’s basic economics really.
“Youth unemployment is much higher in this area and this will give local students a better chance of getting into the job market and remove any disincentive.
“The reason I got into politics, one of the driving forces, was my desire to improve educational opportunities for all kids, but particularly in my electorate.”
Dr Buti said he remained confident that the proposal would eventuate, with WA Education Minister Sue Ellery having been “very receptive”.
But now, it’ll be up to Dr Buti to secure a funding commitment from the state government.
The campaign coincides with the release of a petition calling on the state government to revitalise Armadale.
The petition, spearheaded by Business News executive chairman and long-term local Elton Swarts, features eight requests aimed at addressing the city’s escalating levels of unemployment – including the construction of a new TAFE campus.
Dr Buti said both he and Mr Swarts shared the same objectives and said he was grateful to see a successful businessman be a champion for Armadale and so invested in the future of the city.
The idea also has the backing of the region’s chamber of commerce; with Business Armadale chair Henry Zelones agreeing that securing an accessible TAFE to overcome unemployment with skills should be a priority.