ARARAT - The first of three Trade Training Centres in the Ararat-Stawell region has been official opened at Marian College, six years after the idea was first tabled.
Marian College principal John Crowley said the state-of-the-art university standard laboratory, which will allow Marian College to offer Cert 3 Lab Skills and Cert 2 Viticulture, will provide students with valuable skills as they head into the workforce.
"The facility allows the school to provide high level qualifications and hands-on learning to students which they can then take those skills into particular areas," he said.
"What it will mean is that we will be able to offer our students the opportunity to train at a high level of industry training to prepare them to go out into the workforce and use those skills in a wide variety of areas including mining, allied health and also the local wine industry."
The $1.34 million centre was officially opened last Friday by Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, who was representing Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Senator Scott Ryan.
The Australian Government provided $1 million in funding to help bring the project to fruition.
The centre has been modelled on the Swinburne Institute laboratory in Hawthorn, Melbourne and includes world class equipment and machinery.
Mr Crowley said the new facility would allow Marian College to continue its rich history of offering viticulture to not only its own students, but pupils around the state.
"We have been running that course for a number of years now under the direction of Gerard Kelly and our students have been recognised at a wide variety of wine shows for producing excellent wine," he said.
"They do an absolutely terrific job and that involves the whole process, so picking, crushing, making and the distribution.
"We offer those qualifications to students, not just from the local schools, but schools across Victoria.
"At the moment we only have our own students, but that will hopefully expand and we can theoretically offer both courses to students who are sitting in a classroom in Echuca by using our teleconferencing facilities."
The opening of Marian College's Trade Training Centre is the culmination of hard work by three local principals - Mr Crowley, Geoff Sawyer from Ararat College and Peter Hilbig formally of Stawell Secondary College.
A $1.6 million commercial cooking trade centre is nearing completion at Ararat College, while a $1.1 million automotive trade centre is still under construction at Stawell Secondary College.
"We came together almost six years ago to combine our energy and put in an application to build a facility on all three schools," Mr Crowley said.
"The planning took probably the better part of three years between the three schools and then probably at least another two years to work through architects and council approve to the building stage. We are the first of the three schools to finish and offer the qualification.
"I'd really like to acknowledge the cooperation between the three founding principals, who really did work together in the most efficient manner to be successful in the application for the Trade Training Centres.
"I think that the goodwill and hard work amongst those principals has helped produce facilities which will serve students in the region over the next 20 years really well."
On top of the new laboratory, Marian College has also expanded its curriculum in recent months by using its own funds to purchase an adjoining building to the campus in Barkly Street, which was the former site of Kings Cars.
Mr Crowley said he has already seen the benefits that the new space has had on students in years 11 and 12 who are studying VCAL.
"We have recognised the need for a really excellent applied learning VCAL program to be offered within the school," he said.
"So we have converted Kings Cars into an industry centre where we offer about 30 students a range of VET and VCAL courses which include VET Automotive, VET Building and Construction, VET Public Safety.
"Our aim is to make that facility the best it can possibly be and the centre for applied learning in the region."