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EDITORIAL: Tertiary doors opening

A variety of unfolding circumstances in the past few years have opened the door for us to regularly ponder over the possibilities and ways to build on socio-economic growth in the Wimmera.

The expansion of renewable energy, mining proposals, agricultural value-adding opportunities and the prospect of people perhaps considering a lifestyle change have all sparked debate and brainstorming.

But if there is a constant that has been with us for as long as most remember, it is the economic-growth opportunity that would come with a decision to expand profound tertiary education in the region.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, in seeing momentum generated by agricultural-study growth at Longerenong College near Horsham, has zeroed in on the concept.

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She believes circumstances are ripe for the region to explore ramping up what it could offer in tertiary-education provision, underpinned by undergraduate degrees.

She is right in suggesting that agricultural, environmental, geological and mental-health and food science study areas are a neat fit for a vast primary production region. Considering Stawell’s underground laboratory project, renewable-energy production and the extent of historic sites in the region, we could also throw in physics, cultural and archaeological studies.

If you step back and examine what tertiary or skill-acquisition provision is underway in the region and then consider other opportunities based on infrastructure and service opportunities, it feels like something significant is waiting to happen.

It is like we’re confronted with a mystery tertiary-education image that is clearly there but will only appear after we join the dots.

Longerenong College is obviously hitting the spurs, combining traditional farm learning with the blossoming field of agricultural technology.

Apart from being surrounded by a landscape-scale classroom, it also has Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Innovation Park and the Australian seed bank in Horsham.

Federation University Australia’s Wimmera campus could easily become a launching pad of something expansive and has a regional trade-training centre operating across the road at Horsham College. 

Apart from agricultural production, the underground physics laboratory might open unique doors of opportunity, while gold mining might be set to write a new chapter in Stawell, Ararat and St Arnaud districts. Then of course there is significant mineral-sand mining emerging on the near horizon and energy farms establishing in the region.

Industry requires skilled, qualified professionals and we seem to have the skeleton of ‘school’ holistically waiting for them.

We know that much of the world of tertiary education will change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More people than ever will gain their degrees without leaving their homes. 

But there will always be a need for high-level on-site learning and the Wimmera appears primed to play its part.

RELATED: Tertiary possibilities for Wimmera education evolution

The entire November 25, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 25, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!