The Role of New South Wales Community Education Providers in Regional and Rural Economic Development
25 January 2018
25 January 2018
This report examines the capacity of New South Wales community education providers to contribute to regional and rural economic development. NSW regional and rural community education providers – an active network of 26 not-for-profit organisations – constitute a major economic development resource that has been under-utilised by the NSW State, Commonwealth and local governments, and not incorporated into economic development strategies or planning. This report aims to ensure that the NSW Government can use this community capacity, supporting economic development and providing new program models. The report expands on CCA’s February 2017 paper, The Role of Community Education in Australian Regional and Rural Economic Development.
This page includes the Executive Summary, List of Recommendations and Acknowledgements of the report. A complete copy is available here (PDF).
Economic development in non-metropolitan NSW requires the coordinated and collaborative effort of numerous stakeholders and players, all working closely together. To increase the ability of community education providers to participate in economic development, the most important changes are:
There are powerful reasons for focussing on the contributions of not-for-profit NSW community education providers. They:
There is already a strong relationship between NSW community education providers and economic development. Traditionally, community colleges foster and promote lifelong learning, innovative and critical thinking, capable workers, good communication, improved social and cultural life of their communities and the flexibility to meet challenges and change; all of these align closely with the aims of economic development.
The Australian Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation has concluded that, a “‘place-based’ approach to regional economic development is important because it recognises that regions are different, that one-size-fits-all approaches are often inappropriate, and that local communities must be central to development efforts.” Regional and rural NSW community education organisations are well-placed to support place-based regional economic development activities.
Regional and rural NSW community education providers contribute extensively to their communities through their operations as small and medium size businesses: the approximate combined annual income for the 26 providers in 2016/17 was $70 million, and they employed more than 1,500 staff and many more casual and part-time trainers.
Despite rationalisation of the NSW community college sector in recent years, community, lifelong, professional and further education remain important features of Australia’s educational landscape. The Jobs for NSW’s Jobs for the Future report (p.32) places adult, community and school education amongst the state’s top 20 growth industries. The NSW community education sector is poised to assist the state to take advantage of this growth.
Much of regional and rural Australia does not perform economically as well as capital cities, a perception that is widely shared among people who live there, who feel forgotten by governments, despite record Commonwealth investment. VET is an essential part of Australia’s regional economic development. Because of the economic and business structure of most regional and rural areas, VET is usually seen as more relevant to future careers, more actively undertaken (50% higher than in cities) and has a greater economic impact than in metropolitan areas.
The NSW Government funds NSW adult and community (ACE) providers for the Community Service Obligation (CSO) program ($18 million in 2017/18), part of Smart and Skilled, for disadvantaged learners, regional and remote communities and hard to service communities. A high percentage of ACE CSO-funded students live in regional and rural areas: in 2016, more than 72.4% of government-funded VET to community providers was spent outside of metro Sydney. CCA acknowledges the importance of CSO funding, which has produced outstanding outcomes for NSW in servicing the most disadvantaged residents. It is an excellent initiative; given the superb track record of community providers, CCA strongly believes that a substantial increase in CSO funds is warranted.
The NSW Government’s $1.8 million Tech Savvy for Small Business program (2017/18) has enormous potential to make a real difference in regional and rural economic development, as it draws on the strengths of NSW community providers – their ability to work locally and with small businesses. This program is worth expanding in future years. The NSW Department of Industry supports the governance and professional development needs of NSW community education providers to build both quality and capacity of the providers through ACE Teaching and Leadership program. This program has been extremely valuable, empowering the sector to deliver NSW Government training and skills programs in the best possible manner – and is particularly important for regional and rural providers, which have limited access to professional development opportunities.
The NSW Department of Industry is well-positioned to bring together VET and regional economic development activities. CCA encourages stronger organisational linkages between the two functions, which will assist economic development participation.
Community education regional economic development activities fall into six categories:
New regional opportunities for the sector exist in the training of older workers – who are over-represented and under-utilised in many regional locations, working with regional universities, and developing and encouraging social enterprises. CCA also sees a real opportunity to extend economic development approaches to Western Sydney, where nine of its members are active and many are already collaborating. Opportunities also exist to access philanthropic funding, which needs to be viewed as complementary and not replacing government’s service role.
Regional and rural NSW community providers have identified barriers that prevent engagement in regional economic development, including:
For that reason, the NSW Department of Industry’s 2017/18 “thin market” funding – $100,000 to each of five outer regional and remote community colleges – has been warmly welcomed (Robinson in Broken Hill, Western in Dubbo, Western Riverina in Griffith, Northern Inland in Barraba and New England in Guyra).
Click on the headline to expand the list of recommendations
This report (full copy available here) is divided into nine sections plus five appendices:
This report was prepared with funding provided by the NSW Department of Industry. The recommendations, views and opinions expressed in this report are those of Community Colleges Australia only, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the NSW Department of Industry or any other government agency.
Community Colleges Australia acknowledges the financial assistance of the NSW Department of Industry, as well as the CCA regional and rural New South Wales members that contributed to the research contained in the report. The report was written by Don Perlgut, with the assistance of Evelyn Goodwin and Anne Walter. See Appendix A of the full report for details of organisations that were consulted.
Community education providers – frequently termed “adult and community education” or “ACE” providers – are commonly known in New South Wales as “community colleges”. This report usually uses the generic name “community education providers”, as it incorporates organisations that do not use the “community college” term.
In NSW, the name “Aboriginal” is frequently used by the NSW State Government to mean both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or Indigenous people. At times, to prevent confusion or organisational names, this report utilises both “Indigenous” and Aboriginal interchangeably.