FORWARD planning from education providers are essential to tailor courses for the city's future skills and workforce shortages.
Regional general manager Jonathan Davis, of TAFE NSW, said it is inevitable that a host of development projects and expanded services are required to support a population of 100,000 residents by 2038.
He said local tertiary institutions need to "support the delivery" of these future projects by increasing the qualifications available to the community that are, most importantly, of value.
The state government has endorsed the population's growth in its 20-year economic vision for regional NSW, released in July last year.
In response, Committee 4 Wagga will lead a seminar addressing the critical growth factors to meet the 2038 target.
Among the key issues to be presented at the September 27 seminar are business, health, education and government investments in industrial and community infrastructure.
In the led up The Daily Advertiser will be exploring these key issues in detail.
Mr Davis said the city's leaders are amid the planning process for an upgraded health precinct, the development of a special activation precinct at Bomen and a precinct for the defence industry - as well as Snowy Hydro 2.0 based near Tumut.
These ongoing plans, as well as future projects will require a variety of skills set, which the city currently falls short on. However, Mr Davis said the organisation has been collaborating with Wagga City Council and health providers alike to ensure workforce gaps are met.
The city's health providers told The Daily Advertiser last week that its next step will be establishing a rural medical school that could train doctors locally in order to attract an in-demand service and alleviate predicted strains.
"The health precinct is looking to train general practitioners locally and we intend to support that through enrolled nursing and training other health workers through a certificate three in allied health and health service assistance, as well as qualifications in mental health, disability and so forth," Mr Davis said.
He said access to digital technology has an important role in opening hundreds of qualifications to the broader region.
"The idea with our connected learning centres is for local members of the population to connect to a class delivered elsewhere in the state. We will have a number of mobile training units to do the practical components of their training," he said.
The other focus will be retaining newly gained skill sets, which Mr Davis said is achievable once students are exposed to their future job opportunities.
"The idea is they'll be learning on the job as part of their training. They'll be employed locally as part of their apprenticeship, so some take place in TAFE but most on the job," he said. "People will see once they complete their training that there will be opportunities locally and they don't need to move away to earn a good salary."
Charles Sturt University's strategic adviser Fiona Nash said engagement between tertiary providers and the community is essential to truly understand the future needs of Wagga.
"It is about looking to the future and identifying where the skill and workforce gaps are going to be and what we can do as a regional university to provide the graduates that we know will go out into the regions to practice their professions into the future," she said.
"Our engineering degree in Bathurst came about purely from the university talking to the local community. We purpose-built a degree to provide engineers, not solely, but with a great focus on going to regional areas."
Ms Nash said the university's courses will need to constantly evolve to reflect the industry advancements.
Currently, the city's most popular courses are agricultural science, veterinary and animal science. Ms Nash said the nature of agriculture has significantly changed in the last 20 years and continues to do so.
"There have been technological and farming advancements and changes to farm machinery and as a regional university providing those courses, we need to ensure they are aligned with the industry's future needs," she said.
Demand for fair funding for schools
A LACK of funding is holding back the city's primary and secondary schools from planning for the future.
Wagga Teachers Association president Michelle McKelvie said the federal government has cut about $1.9 billion in recent years, so fair funding is the main priority at the moment.
"It is not about what is going to happen, but what is happening now and the right funding is not there," she said.
"The Gonski funding was a big injection of funds into schools that could be spent on specialist teachers, smaller classes and resourcing, but that has been wound right back."
Ms McKelvie said the physical size of the city's schools are adequate, but the focus is on employing much-needed staff to support students, and who are supported themselves. She said the association advocates for additional permanent teachers rather than casual.
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"You would be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn't struggle to get casual teachers. They are having to collapse classes and send extra students to other classes," she said.
"Use the money to employ permanent teachers who want job security and can cover the class and students won't be missing out on an education."
Ms McKelvie said needs-based funding is also required to ensure all schools can achieve the same outcomes. She said certain students should attract extra funding such as those with disabilities, from a low socio-economic background or living in a rural or remote area.
Ms McKelvie is also calling for more transparency and consultation about the proposed Estella school, and the planning of future schools.
"We haven't been given any information and the federation was excluded from the planning process," she said. "We are the representative body for teachers and have the resources to be involved."