A CCA presentation has highlighted the many challenges in connecting vocational education and training (VET) with economic development in Western Sydney. In a paper entitled “Connecting VET and Regional Economic Development in Western Sydney: An ACE case study”, CCA’s CEO, Dr Don Perlgut highlighted conclusions and recommendations of CCA’s recently completed Western Sydney economic development study. He presented at last week’s ITECA conference in Surfer’s Paradise (view the slides here).
Dr Perlgut made a strong case for the NSW Government to develop a comprehensively planned Western Sydney VET, post-secondary education and skills strategy that builds on the strength of the different VET sectors, anticipating future growth and needs. “Aside from TAFE’s 15-centre campus network, there is little coherence in Western Sydney VET service delivery, with possibly hundreds of providers often operating with little reference to each other’s activities,” Dr Perlgut said.
“There is great potential for the region’s 13 not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) VET providers to work closely together to deliver well-planned services for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners in the region. They already deliver education and other community services from more than 150 locations in Western Sydney,” Dr Perlgut said.
“To fulfil that potential, ACE providers need to work together and obtain support for governance and administrative structures. The involvement of other providers and social service agencies will be welcomed,” said Dr Perlgut.
Dr Perlgut reviewed the transport and jobs challenges facing Western Sydney. A highlight of the presentation was playing the classic Australian folk song, “Train Trip to Guildford”, by the late iconic singer John Dengate, which illustrates the long transit distances and inconvenience facing Western Sydney residents and commuters. WSROC figures show a net “jobs deficit” of more than 200,000 jobs in the region, especially acute for young people.
In the presentation, Dr Perlgut noted that Western Sydney is “home to 1 in 10 Australians – more than 2.2 million people; it’s Australia’s third largest economy, after Sydney and Melbourne CBDs; and the Parramatta CBD is unique in Australia, as greater Sydney is the only capital city with a major second CBD.”
“If we get Western Sydney economic development and skills right, it has implications not only for the rest of Sydney, but the rest of NSW and the rest of Australia,” Dr Perlgut said.
Dr Perlgut said that NCVER figures obtained by CCA show how different Western Sydney VET sectors appear to specialise with different learner groups: “Not-for-profit community providers reach people over age 45 much more effectively, as well as people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and while TAFE reaches Western Sydney’s Indigenous population more effectively.”
The presentation highlighted the enormous challenges facing Western Sydney: the large number of disadvantaged people experiencing higher unemployment rates with few outreach services to serve them, and a massive projected population growth that will see 700,000 people or more living in the region. “That’s one and a half Canberras or Tasmanias; half of the population or Adelaide; or the Gold Coast and Cairns combined. Where will they work, and how will they be trained?” Dr Perlgut asked.
Dr Perlgut concluded the presentation with conclusions from the CCA report:
- ACE providers are ideally positioned to deliver a cohesive connections, ongoing learning and skilling for the region through their place-based approach to education and training.
- ACE providers have limited resources, especially given their willingness to expand and introduce new services to key equity groups.
- Collaborations with all layers of government, industry and community stakeholders are crucial for broader success.