Plans for ag college wind down pick up pace

Mark Furner forges ahead with QATC wind down

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Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the colleges would be closed last December.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the colleges would be closed last December.

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A transition team will be appointed in the coming weeks

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Plans to shut and re-purpose pastoral colleges in Longreach and Emerald are picking up pace, with the state government looking to establish a "transition" team in the next few weeks.

Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges, the parent organisation of Longreach and Emerald pastoral colleges, will be wound down before the end of 2019, following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner is establishing a project management office to help pastoral college staff move into new jobs, as well as to identify new opportunities for the facilities in Longreach and Emerald.

"The Queensland Government recognises we must move to a more modern, cost-effective training model," he said.

“We have started discussions with vocational education and training providers and commercial interests to develop a plan for better use of the QATC’s college facilities in Longreach and Emerald."

Mr Furner said it was important the QATC facilities were not limited to just agricultural training in the future.

"These are valuable assets and they need to be used more effectively," he said.

"We want to make sure that they are available to support a range of training, not limited to agricultural."

Mr Furner has also categorically ruled out turning the colleges into low-security prisons or refugee re-settlement facilities, options put forward by stakeholders during Professor Coaldrake's review.

Peak industry body AgForce, which has put its hand up to take over the colleges, said it welcomed Mr Furner's plans to "transition and invest in education in the region".

"AgForce is committed to engaging willingly and strongly, in genuine consultation with industry, communities and the government.

"We encourage all who care to do the same."

Mr Furner ended months of speculation when he told staff in December that QATC and its flagship training colleges in Longreach and Emerald would be closed.

Across Queensland 108 staff would be affected by the colleges’ closure.

Mr Furner characterised the decision to scrap the colleges as a “line in the sand”.

“The announcement has not been taken lightly,” he said at the time.

“The model as we know it for residential training in respect to Longreach and Emerald is a model that is outdated.

“In this government we have poured millions of dollars into this program to try and keep it viable. But we have drawn a line in the sand today and have decided to close the colleges by the end of 2019.

“This will see the end of QATC as an identity.”

LNP agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said regional Queensland was being hurt by lingering uncertainty surrounding the future of the colleges and their facilities.

“Minister Furner sat on this report and plan to shut down the ag colleges for months and only now is scrambling to work out what to do,” he said. 

“This continued uncertainty and confusion around agriculture education is only hurting the bush, especially as rural Queensland has the highest unemployment rate in Australia and a chronic skills shortage – yet Labor shut the Ag Colleges down.”

The story Plans for ag college wind down pick up pace first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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