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TAFE Robina driving Gold Coast’s sustainable edge in education

Nick Nichols | July 26, 2022

The Gold Coast has become home to Australia’s first sustainable vocational education and training campus with the opening of TAFE Queensland’s latest facility at Robina.

The campus, recognised by the prestigious World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics 2022 Awards of Excellence, positions the Gold Coast as a leader in creating world-class facilities with the city’s $3.5 billion education sector while meeting the specialist needs of a rapidly expanding employment base.

Jobs Queensland predicts the Gold Coast region will see an 18 per cent increase in demand for skilled workers in the accommodation and food services industries alone by 2024-25. The Robina campus is poised to ramp up the Gold Coast’s skills base within this vital sector by allocating key learning spaces for ‘hospitality and cookery’. Students will also gain essential training in early childhood education and care, information technology, hair and beauty, and sport and fitness, among many other disciplines, to ensure the Gold Coast has a pipeline of qualified workers ready to take on the jobs of the future.

The Robina campus will add a further 2,000 TAFE student places on the Gold Coast, boosting the annual intake to more than 15,000 students across six campuses, some of which include specialist training in areas as the marine and construction industries.

“TAFE is easily one of the top options for young Gold Coasters and Gold Coasters in general who want to gain valuable skills and a good job,” says Gold Coast-based Minister for Science and Youth Affairs, Meaghan Scanlon. “We’ve seen TAFE on the Gold Coast boom, with an increase of more than 24 per cent in student enrolments last financial year.”

However, the focus on sustainability sets the new Robina campus apart and creates a model for future facilities planned by TAFE Queensland with the aim of empowering students to be better global citizens.

“From hundreds of solar panels to sensor activated lighting, the success of sustainability measures at Robina will guide all design and construction processes associated with future TAFE Queensland infrastructure works,” says the Minister for Training and Skills Development, Di Farmer.

“The training offered at the new Robina campus encourages students to make a personal commitment to sustainability, using simple and effective measures like bringing their own devices, reducing printing, and using active or public transport. The awareness of sustainability efforts will help students and staff build the skills and habits to create a sustainable future for everyone.”

The sustainability measures implemented at TAFE Robina are now globally recognised with the awarding of a silver medal in the Construction category at the recent World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics 2022 Awards. The Federation is an international network of colleges that provides leadership in delivering workforce education for the global economy.

Sustainability by design

The Robina TAFE is located within the newly completed Acuity Business Park on Laver Drive, where developer Alceon Group used the latest in design and construction practices to meet TAFE’s sustainability ambitions.

Sustainability has been considered in all design and fit-out decisions with some of the key priorities including a rigorous recycling and waste management system, end-of-trip cycling facilities such as e-bike charging stations, and the elimination of single-use plastics.

The campus has 250 solar panels to provide renewable energy for the campus. It employs recycled materials and ecological finishings throughout, uses advanced technology such as sensor-activated lighting and LED task lighting and has a rainwater harvesting tank that feeds into an automated irrigation system. The campus building also has multiple bicycle parks, two bicycle repair stations, skateboard and scooter storage facilities and electric charging stations.

Robina is also TAFE Queensland’s first BYOD (bring your own device) campus, encouraging collaborative learning and helping to bridge the gap between on-campus and at-home study. BYOD is just one of the initiatives to inspire more sustainable thinking by students, encouraging a reduction in paper usage and helping to minimise our carbon footprint.

The physical and mental health of students is also supported through the onsite campus fitness centre, beauty services and healthier menu options.

Eighty-five TAFE Queensland teachers and services staff have transferred to the new campus, which began its first semester in mid-2022. The facility created an additional 20 new roles to meet the training needs of local industry, a figure that is expected to grow as the campus matures.

Bolstering Robina TAFE’s tourism credentials is the appointment of Scott Robertson, the former general manager of Mantra on Salt Beach, as Director of Commercial Operations and Sustainability. His role will include driving public engagement with the campus as part of the real-world educational focus of the TAFE experience for students.

Mr Robertson has more than 20-years’ leadership experience in the hospitality, tourism and events industries, holding management roles around the country and overseas including Hamilton Island, Port Douglas, Fiji, and New Zealand as well as at various leading Gold Coast hotels and resorts. The position will see the seasoned tourism and leisure executive manage the campus training venues, including a gym, restaurant, café and a conference-banquet centre, all of which will be open to the public and run by students and teachers.

“I’m thoroughly looking forward to stepping into the education industry and working towards implementing sustainable solutions that focus on the environment while considering the needs of leaners and the community,” says Mr Robertson.

The fitout of the new Robina campus has been supported by $10 million from the Queensland Government as part of the Equipping TAFE for our Future program which is aimed at enhancing training in the state’s rapidly growing regions.

TAFE QLD Robina Campus

Student perspectives

Errin Heilig Greaves is among the first cohort of students to start the first semester at Robina TAFE, seeking to add a Diploma of Event Management to her Diploma of Hospitality to make her twice as valuable to employers.

“The new Robina campus is amazing, and I can’t wait to train in the live event space which works in respect for the environment and conducts business with a positive impact on people and society,” says Ms Greaves.

“It is important that we learn new and effective ways to lower the carbon footprint of events and the TAFE Queensland Robina campus is a leader in the movement of eco-friendly venues. How lucky are we to be the first cohort to graduate with these sustainable skills?”

Audrey Sebban is seeking to upskill in the childcare sector by studying a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care to pursue her career goal of being a lead educator and ultimately a centre manager.

“I think it is important that the childcare industry use more sustainable products as we are the role model for the children in our care,” says Ms Sebban. “If they see us doing it, and if we teach them what and how to do it in a fun way, they will love to do it. And they might even reproduce it at home.”

The first cohort of students at Robina TAFE will graduate in 2023.

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