The Greens have criticised the $2.3 million changes to the TAFE in Glen Innes as “worrying”.
A spokesman said the situation in Glen Innes was better than in some neighbouring towns but the “Connected Learning Centre”, in which there is remote learning through computers and video links, was “wrong because it’s losing skills training”.
With the Connected Learning Centre, which was formally opened on Monday with much fanfare, students learn construction and other vocational courses partly through computers and by donning Virtual Reality headsets which allow them to examine computer models of construction sites, for example.
The Greens say that TAFEs in the area are little more than internet cafes where terminals have replaced teachers – the one at Tenterfield, for example, was in the view of the Greens, “horrific” and like a ‘”ghost town”.
But one person involved with local TAFEs said that the one in Tenterfield used to be open only a few days a week but was now open for five.
The Greens said the situation in Glen Innes was not as bad as that “but there will still be a loss of practical skills training”.
At the opening of the new premises in Glen Innes on Monday, Gillian Gray, the General Manager, Training for NSW, said the statistics showing more courses and teachers knocked that argument down.
“More courses equals more teachers”, she said, citing 39 courses with the new centre compared with a fraction of that under the old system.
She also said that the centre would enable people to get better training rather than worse. “This enables us to bring practical hands-on training to students in rural areas who would not otherwise have had access before”.
At the opening on Monday, Adam Marshall, the local MP and also the minister in the state government responsible for TAFE, said the new facility was “fantastic”.
The first four connected learning centres are in Quirindi, Coonabarabran, Glen Innes and Tenterfield while eight more are to follow. The idea is that tutors in one can teach students in the others.
The Greens in the state parliament are currently mounting a campaign to “Defend TAFE”.
NSW Greens TAFE spokesperson, Dawn Walker MP, said: “TAFE has endured a decade of debilitating cuts from both Liberal and Labor Governments, as well as being undermined by greedy, for-profit private providers offering inadequate training courses.”
She added that the danger is of the “widespread closure of TAFE campuses, which will be replaced with tacky, pop-up shopfronts that don’t offer adequate practical skills training for TAFE students.”