Shadow ministers visit Southern Cross for National Skills Week

Southern Cross Vocational College Burwood has celebrated National Skills Week with a visit from the NSW Shadow Minister for Skills.

Prue Car, along with Member for Strathfield and fellow Shadow Minister Jodi McKay, met with Principal Patrick O’Reilly to tour Southern Cross and discuss how all NSW schools can be encouraging students to consider alternate pathways to university.

Funded by the ‘Trade Training Centres in Schools’ Initiative and Sydney Catholic Schools, Southern Cross allows students to work towards a non-ATAR HSC while earning Certificate II and III qualifications or beginning a trade apprenticeship.

I think we’ve made a holy grail out of the ATAR in NSW.

– Patrick O’Reilly

Ms Car described the school’s facilities as “really impressive” and said the impact of technology, as well as skills shortages across the country, meant encouraging young people to go into vocational training was vital for the future of the job market.

“I think the whole school system is really mostly designed to get young people to university, but government needs to be looking at innovative ways – and learning from places like Southern Cross – so we can actually get young people into the VET System,” Ms Car said.

“As the Shadow Minister it’s really exciting for me to be able to look at this from a positive perspective of what a future NSW Government might be able to support.”

Mr O’Reilly agreed, lamenting that many parents still viewed university entrance as “the first prize”, with all other options relegated to second best.

“I think we’ve made a holy grail out of the ATAR in NSW. Sometimes we tie young people up in knots when it comes to getting that ATAR, when there’s absolutely no guarantees about career and employment following on from university.”

He said that Southern Cross, which was established when 11 colleges pooled Federal Government trade grants, was a testament to the ways in which the Catholic system allowed schools to work together for the benefit of students.

“This place is a lot more than just a school – it’s a school but not a school, it’s a TAFE but not a TAFE, it’s a venue for creative performing arts – there’s lots of things going on,” he said.

Southern Cross includes state-of-the-art spaces where students can be trained in hairdressing, beauty therapy, furniture making, heavy trades and more, and classes often run from early in the morning to late at night.

Students run a restaurant on the premises, and the facility also hires conference spaces and plans events.

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