It is hoped a $10.3 million Agriculture Machinery Training Centre at the Muresk Institute in Northam will attract more workers to help fill skills shortages in the State's agricultural machinery sector.
Officially opened last Friday, the upgraded facilities are the result of efforts by key industry stakeholders, namely the Farm Machinery & Industry Association of WA (FM & IA) which worked in tandem with leaders at the Muresk Institute, Central Regional TAFE and the Department of Training and Workforce Development to design and develop the modern training facilities for WA's agricultural machinery technicians.
Apprentices completing a Certificate III in Agricultural Mechanical Technology through Central Regional TAFE will be the first to train in the new workshops, classrooms and information technology laboratories, with the TAFE course relocated to Muresk prior to the centre's official opening.
WA Training Minister Simone McGurk, who attended the opening along with the Premier Roger Cook, said the centre had been designed and delivered in complete lock-step with the local industry, with many of the State's agricultural machinery dealerships loaning equipment to the centre so it can keep pace with the technology being developed.
"The agricultural machinery apprentices need to be competent, not only in diesel heavy vehicle equipment, but also in diagnostics and equipment technology, and that's the sort of training they have available to them with this upgrade here at Muresk," Ms McGurk said.
"We have a huge harvester by CLASS, an over $1 million piece of equipment that the local industry is prepared to loan to Muresk, so the students can actually get real life experience in their training and then, when they're in their job, can hit the ground running knowing they have the most up to date experience possible."
Two State-funded combine harvester simulators also form part of the centre's training equipment, helping to create a realistic and safe farming environment for students to learn in.
In what is envisaged to be an ongoing partnership with industry, more than 60 indentured agricultural machinery apprentices are already set to be trained at the facility.
Both mature age and young students form the course's current cohort of apprentices, with Ms McGurk saying there are benefits to the industry when people with some life experience decide to enter into the sector.
Now in his second year of his Certificate III in Agricultural Mechanical Technology, Kallum Murphy, 19, who also receives on the job training at CLAAS as part of his apprenticeship said the State's agricultural machinery dealerships were crying out for more workers in his field.
Having relocated from Central Regional TAFE in Northam to the Muresk Institute for his second year of study, Mr Murphy said the new centre meant he now had greater access to equipment that related to his work.
"For our last block for example, CLAAS loaned a header out so we could use the tracks on it and pull them apart as part of our unit," Mr Murphy said.
"There's still equipment coming that we need, but the difference in training here compared to the TAFE campus has been huge.
"Mining tends to eat up a lot of the workers in fields similar to that of our agricultural machinery technicians, and a lot of people don't realise the jobs that are available to them in areas like precision ag, so I think it's really just a matter of getting the word out there.
"I'd encourage anyone considering a career in the agricultural machinery industry to give it a go.
"The positives are that you're treated like you're more than just a number and you can enjoy the lifestyle of living in the country too."
Muresk Institute general manager Andrew Orford said the support from the local industry in getting the centre up and running had been amazing.
"Essentially it's their apprentices that we're training, so their knowledge of the machinery is essential," Mr Orford said.
"The FM & IA advisory group, which is representative of WA's machinery dealerships, will continue to meet regularly with Central Regional TAFE, to ensure the courses are equipped with all the resources necessary to provide efficient training in this area.
"In addition to the training we are doing, the machinery dealerships are also bringing their own staff to Muresk to utilise these facilities to conduct their own in-house training."
A new $800,000 industry-standard shearing shed also forms part of the recent upgrades at Muresk.
Mr Cook said the centre formed part of the government's $243 million investment in upgrades to TAFE colleges across WA, with more than half of that investment being focused in the State's regional areas.
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