It’s Time for a National Adult and Community Education Infrastructure Program

It’s time to implement a national adult and community education (ACE) provider infrastructure program.

The Novel coronavirus, record low interest rates and a per capita income recession have created “perfect conditions for a serious systemic injection of infrastructure funding,” said Peter Hartcher on ABC TV’s The Drum on 4 February.

“Three years ago, Community Colleges Australia identified the tremendous value providing infrastructure funding to our sector. We are most pleased that the NSW Government established a $2.3 million ACE infrastructure grant program last year. We are keen to see this repeated in NSW and extended nationally,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

CCA will soon be writing to the Commonwealth, NSW, Victorian and Queensland state ministers with specific proposals for updated national and state programs.

“Our research shows that every dollar spent on infrastructure for ACE providers returns value to their communities many times over. This needs to be on the agenda for the next COAG Skills Ministers meeting,” said Dr Perlgut.

Background

One of the greatest challenges facing community education providers is how to maintain existing and construct new buildings. Small and medium providers, especially in regional, rural and many outer metropolitan areas, face special and welldocumented challenges to maintain the high infrastructure costs imposed by accreditation and competitive tendering.

In 2009, the Commonwealth Government set up a $100 million “Investing in Community Education and Training program, part of a $500 million VET Capital Fund that included TAFE. This fund offered not-for-profit community education providers grants up to $1.5 million for major capital infrastructure developments and upgrades.

Community Colleges Australia (CCA), working with Per Capita in early 2017, surveyed almost half of the community providers that received funds under this program. We found that more than 100,000 additional students undertook training in the following 7 years as a direct result of that funding, as well as greatly enhanced accessibility for students with disabilities and numerous other community benefits. In other words, a new student was trained for every $1,000 invested, a fabulous return on investment.

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