College wind-down continues
A TRANSITION team will be appointed by the State Government to oversee the closure of Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges in Emerald and Longreach.
Three positions, which have been advertised online, will make up half a group called the Project Management Office, a team of six which is expected to be operational in a matter of weeks.
"Our intention is for the PMO to be operational in the coming weeks, which is why we are currently advertising for a director and two liaison officers,” Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said.
"These are full-time positions with the director to be based in Longreach and the liaison officers to be based in Longreach and Emerald.
"Applications are now open on the Queensland Government's Smart Jobs website and close on Friday, January 18, 2019,” he said.
The description of the roles is to facilitate a process of consultation, leading to the transition of QATC students, staff and facilities in the next 12 months.
The Minister's office has said the staff - two liaison officers and a director - would "reinvigorate vocational education, training and skilling in the state's central west”.
While the office and the positions were announced earlier this week, CEO of AgForce, Michael Guerin, has said they have some confidence, but are still in the dark.
"We are heartened by Minister Furner's announcement that he is working on a plan to best use the ag college facilities, and are hopeful that this approach - compared to his announcement in early December that he was going to close the colleges - provides an opportunity for the agriculture industry to retain these vital assets.
"However, we just don't know.
"AgForce continues to look for clarity around the Minister's intentions going forward,” he said
Last year, the industry body formed a steering committee to develop a plan to save the colleges.
"The Minister promised to meet with us in mid-January to discuss ways to save the ag colleges, and we look forward to that meeting,” Mr Guerin said.
"Agricultural Colleges in all other States are sustainable, successful and well-attended while in Queensland enrolments have been falling for years.
"You have to ask yourself why.
"A lack of vision, restrictive governance, limiting business models, inadequate investment, and a failure to appreciate the importance of agricultural education by successive governments have led to this sad situation.
"This is an opportunity to look at the enhanced role the ag colleges can play in a contemporary rural education framework.
"There is a sustainable solution; the agriculture industry will be able to provide the vision, the innovative spirit and, most importantly, the will to deliver a sustainable, relevant future for agricultural training and education.
"AgForce will continue to engage with producers, educators and the rural community to develop a plan to save the colleges,” he said.
At the time of the committe's formation in late December, AgForce president Georgie Somerset said the industry could do better than government here.
"We plan to begin work on this proposal as a priority in 2019 and present it to the Minister before the end of the second academic term, giving communities and industry the opportunity to be involved and the Government sufficient time to consider our proposal and to keep the colleges open in 2020.
"We aren't asking Minister Furner for favours, but we are 100% certain that, when the agriculture industry and rural communities come together, we will develop a plan that is financially sound and sustainable,” Ms Somerset said.
For students due to start at the school this year, there is some hope.
Isabella Brownlie, whose story ran in The Western Star on December 21, may still be able to attend the equine program for 2019, according to her mother Ann Brownlie.
"Nothing is official as yet, but it looks like Isabella's horse course is going to go ahead.
"It's still very sad that both facilities are going to close at the end of the year,” she said.