Proposal on the table

A PROPOSAL seeking to establish an engineering pathways project in Gippsland is being reviewed by the State Government.

The project would address a trend in declining productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing industries

Led by Monash University, in partnership with high-profile partners including the Gippsland Education Precinct, University of Ballarat, Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE, Lion Corporation and Safetech, the Gippsland Industry-led Control and Systems Engineering Pathway is seeking just under $3 million in financial support from the government through the Regional Partnerships Facilitation Fund.

“This Gippsland-led initiative aims to utilise existing education networks and leverage these platforms to deliver education programs,” GICSEP program manager Kelvin Slade told The Express.

Mr Slade said the consortium partners would contribute $8.15 million or 73 per cent of the total project value of $11.15 million.

“Government figures show there are about 17,000 people in the Latrobe Valley region who are Vocational Education and Training-qualified in technical work; with a transition to value-added systems, they have no chance to upskill,” he said.

It was unknown when the State Government would make a decision on the proposal, although Mr Slade speculated this could be in the next two months.

He said the proposed education pathways program would focus on the design, implementation and maintenance of automated manufacturing systems across industries including food processing and packaging, mining, utilities and aerospace from Certificate IV to Masters levels.

Mr Slade said the proposal was a proactive move and aimed to address a shortage of qualified control and systems engineers in the region.

“We currently don’t have the courses to train them; we need a strategy to overcome this or industries will continue to slide in competitiveness,” he said.

Mr Slade said if the proposal was successful, GICSEP could be looking at full project initiation in July, with diploma courses to begin in February 2014, and advanced diploma and degrees by 2015.

“We anticipate to attract about 72 students per annum for just the diploma and degree (courses), but over the project we conservatively estimate 350 students over two years, and from 2018 onwards we are looking at 220 students per annum,” Mr Slade, who is also Gippsland Education Precinct manager regional skills and training, said.

“This project will boost competitiveness and the ability of the region to attract investment as well as enable multiple cohorts of potential students find career paths in engineering.”

He said the proposal had received strong endorsement from industry, community and government, with 46 letters of support for the proposal.

Commenting on the University of Ballarat’s role in the proposal, which took about 10 months to put together, Mr Slade said the institution had been suggested as it already had a “clear synergy” with the project through GippsTAFE even before last month’s announcement it was looking to merge with Monash University’s Gippsland campus.