THE people of Gippsland have been through a rough patch.
“They have had a big transition in the power industry with Hazelwood closing and dairy prices have been down,” chair of Agribusiness Gippsland Paul Ford says.
“People have been doing it tough.”
Mr Ford believes the new Tech School taking shape in Morwell could sweep away the gloom and help Gippsland communities see a bright future, which is why he has forged a partnership between Agribusiness Gippsland and the new centre.
Due to open on April 17, the Tech School will be used by up to 6000 secondary school students from eight partnering government and non-government schools in Gippsland.
It is located on Federation Training’s TAFE campus and will be part of a wider tech precinct that will open later this year.
“Things like the Tech School and the high-tech precinct are an opportunity to reset the way we think about ourselves,” Mr Ford says. “Instead of glass half empty, the future for Gippsland is glass half full. It is a really exciting opportunity for the region.”
The Gippsland centre is one of 10 new Tech Schools opening across Victoria, funded by the state Government as part of its Education State initiative.
The centre will give Year 7 to 12 students hands-on access to robotics from entry level to advanced humanoid and industrial robots, advanced computing with 3D animation, game design, virtual reality and augmented reality, animation, film design and media. It will also have a health and human movement lab, which will focus on health and wellbeing for young people.
Four staff members, including a director, two specialist teachers and a technology manager, will deliver the specialist curriculum to classes from the La Trobe Valley to extend education in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Gippsland Tech School director Paul Boys has been choosing the high-tech gear for the new school and working with local businesses to build industry partnership.
Mr Boys says the Tech School is “the most exciting thing I‘ve seen happening in education in the 15 years I’ve been involved”.
He and his staff will work closely with partner schools to extend lesson plans with hands-on technology applications.
“For example, if we have a Year 8 science class, who may be doing a term on new energy, we will embed an activity in their 10-week program when they will come to us to access the high-end facilities to add value to what they are doing in the class,” he says.
Industry partnerships are integral to how the Tech School will operate.
“We will bring industry into the curriculum design,” Mr Boys says. “We have four primary industry areas: food and fibre, health, new energy and advanced manufacturing.”
Agribusiness Gippsland is the centre’s partner in food and fibre, with the Gippsland Forestry Hub, Energy Australia and SafeTech partnering in the other areas.
“I think it is really going to provide some excitement and new energy to the way in which we can teach young people to prepare themselves for future careers and future industries,” Mr Boys says.
Agribusiness Gippsland’s Paul Ford has been on the Tech School’s committee since its inception.
“There are 6500 families farming in Gippsland, contributing to small regional communities,” Mr Ford says. “There are 2500 agribusinesses here. Some are big, like Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, and others are small specialist agribusinesses.
“So this is a very big sector, it is the economic engine of the region. We have to build and grow that sector and attract, retain and develop young talented people to work in the sector.
“We also need to get them to see Gippsland as a vibrant place to be living and working.”
While the Tech School will service secondary students, the wider tech precinct will be open to TAFE and university students.
It is hoped that the precinct can become a hub where anyone can learn about new developments in the core Gippsland industries.
Mr Ford says Gippsland is the biggest of Victoria’s regions by the amount of annual gross regional production, which is $15.8 billion.
“Agribusiness is half of that: $7 billion. We are strong in dairy, fibre, meat, horticulture and fishing,” he says. “Here is a chance to be merging training at Tech School level to tertiary level and link to the research on a high-tech precinct. Industry is keen to be involved.”
As part of the planning phase, Mr Ford says Agribusiness Gippsland helped organise a workshop with an innovation manager from industry and students from local schools.
“One of the projects that the kids came up with in a designled innovation workshop was developing yogurt for pregnant women,” Mr Ford says. “Because that idea was so good, those kids had the opportunity to go in to the head office of Murray Goulburn and present the findings to the biggest dairy company in Victoria.”
Mr Boys says he hopes the centre will offer more opportunities such as this and give residents a renewed sense of pride in their local industries and communities.
“I have lived in this Gippsland community for a fair while, have four kids schooled in Gippsland,” Mr Boys says. “I think that it is really important, from our perspective, to feel connected to where we live. I think regional living is fantastic and energetic and has a really bright future.”
Article courtesy of the Weekly Times