by Joanna Atherfold Finn

Nestled on an expansive site in Nelson Bay originally donated to the community in 1892 by John Dalton, the Tomaree Community College is a Registered Training Organisation employing over 20 staff and delivering training to more than 3000 students annually.

Operational for 32 years, Linda Drake has worked at the college for 19 years and has been the driving force (along with her great team) since taking on the role as Chief Executive Officer in 2016. She spoke about some of the college’s great initiatives, but also the challenges. One being the security of tenure.

“Originally the land was to be auctioned on the open market, but two days prior to the auction it was found that there was an educational covenant over it, meaning the land could only be used for community purposes or education,” Linda said.

Even though the open auction didn’t proceed, it took another ten years of negotiations for the centre to have some stability.

“The Department of Education gave us a notice of eviction to either lease, buy or leave and we eventually purchased,” she said.

The college’s program is all inclusive. It runs recreational and lifestyle courses, but the focus is increasingly geared towards accredited training including first aid, business, and information technology to higher-level diploma qualifications, as well as popular child care, aged care and hospitality training aligned to skills shortages in the local area, and training for disadvantaged members of the community.

“The general interest courses are fading out, but there will always be a place for them,” Linda said.

“We don’t do online training because we find that the outcomes are lower. We have students that cross over from online training to us because it’s a very isolated form of learning. There’s not the discussion and interaction that you get when training as part of a group.

“In the past 12 months we have had students complete 2417 accredited units of competency.”

Childcare training and assessment is a new focal point for the college with a 67-place state-of-the-art training centre to open in 2020.

Last year, the college also branched out to offer Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) and Vacation care.

“The provision of OSHC has brought a service to all school-age children that travel from Soldiers Point, Anna Bay and all schools in between.”

The students are located within the building and are able to be part of a real working environment and this has given a whole new dimension to the training.

“We’ve also created jobs. Previous students are now employed by the college. That in itself is a real positive for our community in creating new jobs locally.”

The college collaborates with a range of local organisations where students are placed for work experience and skills validation. In return, staff attend the college for training.

“We provide a skill force for the aged sector and childcare here because most of our students are working in these career pathways.”

The scope is expanding into exciting new industries with beauty training yet another area being launched including nails, tanning, eyelash extensions and makeup.

Computer training is located in the specially designed computer lab, increasing confidence in new technologies for students and seniors.

“We are also planning to do pre-apprenticeship training for young males in the area. If you want to do hands-on jobs, you need skills. It shows employers that young people have initiative.

“If there is something lacking in your day or business, give us a call. We would love to hear from you and support your training requirements,” Linda said.