More than 400 additional students will be able to study plant and heavy vehicle mechanics at Kurri Kurri TAFE under a multimillion dollar plan to expand its facilities.
A development application for the upgrade and expansion of the training centre has been lodged with Cessnock City Council by the Department of Education.
Huge demand for apprentices within the mining and transport sectors has driven the development, with enrolments in plant and heavy vehicle courses at Hunter TAFE growing by 46 per cent since 2008.
This has included a 30 per cent increase at Kurri Kurri to take their enrolments to capacity, with satellite centres set up at the Muswellbrook, Glendale and Wyong campuses to cater for the remaining students.
Hunter TAFE’s strategic planning manager David Kirkby said there were 687 students enrolled in that section last year, with this development enabling them to increase capacity at the Kurri Kurri facility by about 60 per cent.
“This is a multimillion dollar project of regional significance,” he said.
“It will be meeting the plant and heavy vehicle needs for the entire Hunter and Central Coast region and will also attract apprentices from other parts of NSW via industry partnerships with companies like Komatsu.
“It will be principally training mechanics who service and repair the major earth moving and transport equipment used in the Hunter.
“Most of the students are apprentices who do three years with TAFE and then a year on the job, but there are also those studying for post trade qualifications to upgrade their skills.
“We’ve really hit the wall in terms of capacity [at Kurri Kurri] – this development will ensure the region has the skilled workforce to support its major civil engineering, mining and transport needs.”
The project was allocated funding in last year’s state budget, however Mr Kirkby said he was unable to put a final dollar figure on the development as it would compromise the tender process.
“We’ve been in the detailed design phase [since the budget allocation] and we expect to go to tender close to the end of the financial year for construction during 2013-2014,” he said. “We would expect handover during semester two next year to be fully operational in time for 2014.”