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They both demonstrate TAFE's ongoing capacity for innovation
and its ability to meet the demands and circumstances of the times
The other day I was chatting with an 88-year-old bloke who'd proudly
spent his entire working life as a brickie. He'd studied his trade at
TAFE (known as Sydney Technical College back then), in the years just
prior to WWII. His teenaged great grandson is now following suit (kind
of), studying TAFE's Certificate
III in Plumbing.
The octogenarian was quietly shaking his head and marvelling at this
"new electronic gadget thingy" that helps students with
their studying. His great grandson had been giving him a demo of its
features. "We certainly didn't have anything like this back in my
day," he said.
The "new electronic gadget thingy" was, of course, SkillsLocker,
TAFE NSW's recently-launched study app that allows students to
submit assessments and communicate with their teachers via their smartphones.
And yes, he was right. There certainly was nothing like it back in
his day. But that's not to say no innovative ideas were coming out of
Sydney Tech College when he was a teenaged tradie-in-training.
Of course, NSW in the Depression-hit 1930s was a very different time
and place. Enrolments for tech education courses in rural areas were
going through the roof. But there was the tyranny of geography to
consider. How could the College meet this demand?
By going bush. Literally.
At a cost of £4,500 each, disused railway carriages were brought out
of retirement, dusted down and converted into classrooms and
workshops. These ‘Mobile Instructional Units' were then sent to towns
all across the state where eager young men would climb aboard for
something many of them never dreamed they'd have – the opportunity to
study a trade.
There's lots of things I like about this little bit of TAFE history.
But it's the resourcefulness and innovation it demonstrates that
really makes it shine.
The Mobile Instructional Units of the Depression era might seem to
have nothing in common with 2013's SkillsLocker. But they're both
great examples of innovative service delivery – of taking the training
to the people and, in turn, contributing to economic growth within
local communities. They both demonstrate TAFE's ongoing capacity for
innovation and its ability to meet the demands and circumstances of
the times, whatever they may be.