Hittin' the road - Episode 7: Mudgee

The kitchen facilities are so good that TAFE's local competitors also use them. Kudos to Mudgee for sharing their toys with the kids next door

After seeing all the wonderful work being done across TAFE Illawarra, I couldn't wait to jump into the car to make some new friends in a different part of the state. And with nine other Institutes to pick from, I was certainly spoiled for choice. So where did my travels take me in Round 2 of the great TAFE Road Trip? Four words – Go West, Young Man. (Okay, young-ish man.)

After a leisurely drive from Sydney, my first port of call was Mudgee.

Mudgee TAFE is a large and very well-equipped campus. As hospitality is one of their strongest areas, they have the most amazing training kitchens. In fact, the kitchen facilities are so good that TAFE's local competitors also use them. Kudos to Mudgee for sharing their toys with the kids next door. Something there should be more of everywhere.

Engineering is another big industry area that Mudgee TAFE does very well. Walking into the electrical facilities at Mudgee was like being transported to a WorldSkills arena – a large space with a row of separate booths against the walls in which apprentice sparkies can individually practise the ins and outs of their trade. It's a great learning environment. Was it embarrassing that I had trouble finding the light switch?

Similarly, the hydraulics training facilities took my breath away. Hydraulics, which is basically oil or air under pressure, is everywhere in our society – in cranes, elevators, trucks, braking systems, in fact most large machinery – so it was interesting seeing it laid out bare and basic in the form of a large training rig. Just right for some serious "hands-on" learning.

I was also mighty impressed with the automotive facilities. Not only is the garage as well-equipped as the rest of the campus, but the TVET automotive students from Mudgee High School have no shortage of real cars on which to hone their skills. Local abandoned cars that are still unclaimed after six months are given to TAFE Western, including Mudgee TAFE's training garage. Pulling a car to pieces and then reassembling it (over and over again) is surely the best way to learn exactly how it all works.

Moving further along, I caught up with some carpentry pre-apprenticeship students, whose work includes some pretty awesome chook houses. The guys are justifiably proud of their work, but they still couldn't be persuaded to do some chook impersonations for the camera. A couple of the students have already secured apprenticeships with local carpenters and builders, which is great. For the other students, this course actually shortens the time spent away from the job site by pre-loading the TAFE component prior to entering the workforce. Great for the student and great for the employer!

Starting at Mudgee, and something that was a feature throughout TAFE Western Institute, was the concept of naming meeting rooms. TAFE Western works in close partnership with local Aboriginal communities, and invites representatives from those communities (usually Elders) to name the meeting rooms with a name that honours both their language and their people. Nice one.

After my whirlwind tour of the great facilities at Mudgee it was time to jump back into the car again and make some more tracks. Next stops – Dunedoo and Gilgandra.