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Defence industries open for Northern Adelaide students

As Holden’s Elizabeth plant closes its doors on Friday, a local high school is offering students 21st century alternatives in emerging industries.

St Patrick’s Technical College in Edinburgh North is at the forefront of helping industries meet future employment needs by training senior high school students in the skills identified as lacking by local Defence and advanced manufacturing companies.

Working closely with Adelaide-based Defence industry heavyweights Century Engineering, PMB Defence and Saab Australia through the Federal Governments $5.1 million P-TECH program, StPatsTech has developed projects to ensure students learn real-world skills sought-after by employers.

The college boasts a 98 per cent employment rate for graduates thanks to its Entrepreneurial Education model. The College encourages students to play to their strengths and abilities and tailors its programs to suit specific trade areas and also offers a unique School-based Apprenticeship model with extensive, strong links to industry.

As local, traditional manufacturing gives way to global economies and technological advancement, workers need to pivot their skills to ensure they are both employable and meeting the demands on industry, StPatsTech College Business Development Manager Patrick Kelly said this week. He said it was vitally important for South Australia’s emerging industries that today’s teenagers engage now with training to ensure multi-billion dollar projects earmarked for the region can source the skilled workers necessary for production.

P-TECH’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects will put students at the forefront of 21st careers. From 2018, Year 11 students can study both their senior school certificate and a Certificate IV in Programming at StPatsTech. This IT stream has been developed in partnership with Saab Australia and aims to produce the next generation of software engineers who have hands-on knowledge to bring engineering designers’ ideas to life.

Mr Kelly said 2017 has seen the conversation about the value of vocational education and training take on a national focus.

“Often seen as the poor cousin to university education we are delighted to see universities, government and business recognise the capacity and importance of vocational education and training,” Mr Kelly said.

Earlier this month we heard from Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, who spoke about a new plan for tertiary education and training. In a speech to the National Press Club, Ms Westacott said Australia needed to be at the forefront of new technologies and ensuring the workforce can meet those requirements or it would be left behind globally.

“Our current occupational structures are also overly focussed on credentialising too many things as university qualifications. And, of course, this credentialising problem stems from the cultural problem that VET has a lower status than higher education,” Ms Westacott said.

“Once and for all we need to fix this cultural bias, reinforced by funding bias, that a VET qualification is a second-class qualification to a university one. It isn’t. In a world where machines and people will work together and technical skills will be needed by all workers, that cultural bias can only create damage.’’

Mr Kelly said Friday’s final closure of Holden’s Elizabeth plant was a sad day for the community. The company had employed some of the school’s students as apprentices as well as the College’s Deputy Principal Terry Neville, who began his apprenticeship at the plant in 1974.

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