Vocational education in New South Wales is undergoing an exciting change, which is set to redefine how students, the industry and community interact.
TAFE NSW is driving this change through the Meadowbank Education and Employment Precinct in the City of Ryde in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
Seeking to improve the way students learn and collaborate both internally and externally, the NSW state government is developing the new precinct in a move to attract more students to vocational education.
The precinct includes the creation of new primary and secondary schools, situated adjacent to the TAFE campus, as well as extensive upgrades to TAFE facilities.
These upgrades are focused on helping students harness the benefits of multi-disciplinary training—through a new Multi-Trades and Digital Technology Hub building—and ensuring the precinct is co-located with local industry and the wider community.
To keep the campus connected, improvements will be made to access from the railway station and the new facilities—ensuring that students are able to take advantage of a multitude of training and employment opportunities both within TAFE NSW and throughout the area.
Vocational education and training (VET) provided by state governments competes with market forces, funding pressures, competition from private providers, and a changing workforce with an increasing reliance on digital economies.
As a result, trade and non-trade apprenticeship and traineeship numbers have been declining in recent years—prompting the need for a new direction for education facilities in order to develop and harness the 21st century capabilities sought-after by individuals, communities and industries.
The new Meadowbank precinct is taking this new direction and is set to provide an integrated and liveable place for school and TAFE students to access collaborative training and education.
This new approach is designed to meet rapidly-growing technological advancements in order to create facilities that exceed modern student, industry and community needs.
This approach combines with the renewed focus on visibility and transparency of educational activities and the clearly defined permeability in the new building and throughout the campus—design features that are creating a multi-disciplinary and innovative space for students and industry to enjoy.
As one of the largest TAFE campuses in NSW, TAFE NSW Meadowbank is situated adjacent to the Northern Line train station in a growing community just north of the Parramatta River.
The site has a long history of manufacturing and technology commencing in the late 1800s, which included the production of the city’s tram cars and railway carriages.
TAFE education operations commenced in the 1950s in the post WW2 industrial and economic boom, which was a time for exceptional demand for technical education.
These days, however, the campus has a number of dated and segregated facilities that offer little visibility or opportunities for collaboration between disciplines.
To combat this, a key feature in the new technology-focused TAFE campus will be the 14,000sq m Multi-Trades and Digital Technology Hub building.
This building will become a leading hub that puts technology front and centre of the revitalised TAFE site, while providing students with facilities that are designed to help them learn, collaborate with other disciplines and prepare them for the future.
The TAFE NSW Meadowbank project has been realised by Australian architecture and design firm, Gray Puksand, who has been delivering leading educational projects throughout Australia over the past 20 years.
“Our established background in working with TAFE and Tertiary Education institutions in Australia has provided an informed response for the design of this building” Gray Puksand partner Craig Saltmarsh said.
“The design is grounded in evidence-based research, informed by local and international exemplars and developed through contemporary andragogy.
“Our advisory group comprising independent educational professionals has informed a brief that is grounded in a deep knowledge of place, people and purpose; providing a prototype building for digital and skills training that anticipates the future.”
The precinct design is focused on how end-users will enjoy the space, with thoughtful designs connecting and creating great social areas, both inside and across the adjacent landscaped spaces.
A variety of student, educator and industry spaces will be devoted to promote social interactions and collaboration.
Food and beverage offerings and incidental workspace environments in combination with extensive natural daylight and views all work together to create a comfortable environment to promote health and wellbeing.
The building will facilitate the emergence of computer-aided construction and modular assembly training. Functionally it will be organised around a series of exhibition spaces, combined with the logistics required for multi-disciplinary operations.
The building will showcase the future of skills training, being a prototype for tertiary education, and a demonstration to industry and the community.
“Our hub design responds in an informed way within an emerging campus masterplan and educational precinct context. The building’s design is sympathetic to its location.
“The building responds to and unifies the built environment context; it draws people in and creates a welcoming and attractive arrival point for visitors,” Gray Puksand senior associate Barry Hackett said.
“The design adds to the vibrancy of the campus by activating the resultant interstitial spaces inside and outside the building. A variety of external settings are created that respond to the functional program. The internal plan informs external spaces by adding value and meaning to their function”.
This is not the first technology-focused project TAFE NSW and Gray Puksand have collaborated on, with the headquarters for TAFE Digital being completed in 2018.
TAFE Digital is the largest online education provider in Australia, offering over 250 courses, and a centrepiece for TAFE NSW’s new digital strategy.
The new $6 million facility in Armidale NSW, has been set up to facilitate flexible online education through a variety of platforms, including virtual classrooms and forums, as well as access to the latest technologies in multi-media, including virtual reality simulation exercises.
“Digital learning is becoming an increasingly significant part of the student experience and development of new cutting-edge courses will be led by tech gurus right here in Armidale,” Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said.
“They will use exciting new technologies like virtual and augmented reality, robotics, 3D printing and remote conferencing to develop courses which can then be rolled out to students across the state.”
As with the Meadowbank Hub, TAFE Digital collaborates with industry to ensure that the skills being offered are relevant to workplaces of the future and will keep students’ education future-proofed once they enter their chosen industry.
Beyond the obvious benefit of providing clearer pathways for school students into vocational training, the direction being taken by TAFE NSW will create an integrated tertiary education sector offering, with the new facilities providing courses that compare to those offered by universities.
The precinct will also provide new pathways and digital technologies for construction trades and other professions—responding to current and future industry demands.
About the Author
Craig Saltmarsh, Partner
Craig Saltmarsh is a partner in the Sydney studio at Gray Puksand and is committed to a collaborative approach to architecture, working in partnership with his loyal client base for over 25 years across projects in the education and science and commercial sectors.
Barry Hackett, Senior Associate
Barry Hackett is a senior associate in the Sydney studio at Gray Puksand. Barry is a skilled architect working in the education, health and commercial sectors, servicing a range of government and private sector clients.