Last week, the Queensland Government announced that it has reached an agreement with the Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) to occupy the former Longreach campus of the Queensland Agricultural Training College (QATC). The initial agreement is for the period to November 2020, which is a short-term arrangement until a more detailed business case is agreed upon to manage the long-term use of the facilities.
It’s a move the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has welcomed because of the not-for-profit company’s strong commitment to respond to the needs of the region. QFF believes that the success of the facility will be based on its ability to be flexible in meeting regional needs and future trends, developing partnerships with other training providers and continued industry consultation. With RAPAD’s members including the Longreach, Winton, Diamantina, Boulia, Blackall-Tambo, Barcoo and Barcaldine regional councils, they are well placed to accommodate community events, training and commercial interests with the addition of the QATC facilities.
However, the importance of the Queensland Government’s continued support of liveable regional centres with good transport infrastructure and internet connectivity for the future of agricultural skills and training, cannot be over-stated. The Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (RJSA) has met multiple times with the Project Management Office (PMO) in charge of developing an Economic Transition Strategy for QATC’s staff, students and assets. The RJSA has highlighted the need to ensure that industry-relevant training is provided through the much-anticipated new arrangements and the Alliance is keen to provide future support to RAPAD.
Additionally, QFF hopes that an announcement for the use of the Emerald Agricultural Colleges future is imminent with the situation now critical as QATC has ceased operations. We highlight the importance on the government’s commitment to the transition plan that addresses the needs of the industry and to progress industry-led initiatives such as the ‘Queensland Agriculture to Schools Engagement Program’ (QASEP) to address both the perceived and real gaps in schools-industry engagement and the need for continuous learning in the workforce that provides a wholistic program to address many of the gaps that the closure of QATC has left.