Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges will be scrapped at the end of 2019, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner says.
Mr Furner ended months of speculation when he told staff on Wednesday that QATC and its flagship training colleges in Longreach and Emerald would be closed following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.
Across Queensland 108 staff would be affected by the colleges’ closure.
The QATC board has been kept in the dark while the state government chewed over the decision, and was only told the colleges would be closing on Wednesday morning.
Mr Furner defended the decision to keep the board out of the loop by saying they were “not stupid” and would have been able to see the writing on the wall.
“The board's not stupid and neither is the public here. They've seen the writing on the wall. They've realised this has been coming,” he said.
“There's a sense of relief in some respects from those people on the board, but an incredible sense of optimism coming from them as well.”
One QATC employee, who asked not to be named, said they had feared the state government would shut down the colleges for some time.
“They could’ve made it work, but we saw it coming,” the employee said.
Mr Furner characterised the decision to scrap the colleges as a “line in the sand”.
“The announcement has not been taken lightly,” he said.
“The model as we know it for residential training in respect to Longreach and Emerald is a model that is outdated.
“In this government we have poured millions of dollars into this program to try and keep it viable. But we have drawn a line in the sand today and have decided to close the colleges by the end of 2019.
“This will see the end of QATC as an identity.”
Just two weeks ago staff and students were toasting Longreach Pastoral College’s rich history, as the campus celebrated its 50th graduation ceremony.
A fund of $7 million has been set aside to help staff and current students transition as the colleges are wound down through 2019.
“We have made a commitment as a government to invest and provide $7 million into the communities in regards to assisting in the transitional period,” Mr Furner said.
Questions remain about what will be done with the Longreach and Emerald campuses once QATC is shut down.
The state government is in negotiations with other training providers to see whether they might be interested in using the facilities.
On the review's advice, the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges will cease operation at the end of 2019 with a transition to a more modern, cost-effective training.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the agricultural industry had evolved significantly and change was needed to make sure training needs could be met and regional economies supported.
Mr Furner said the review found demand for traditional agricultural training had been declining for years and more flexible options were needed.
"The Coaldrake review has identified opportunities to grow the vocational education, training and skills sector in central western Queensland and help boost economic growth and regional resilience," he said.
The Queensland Government will invest $7 million in implementing the review.
Part of the investment will ensure current students can complete their qualification or studies at QATC or through a supported transition to other training providers.
The funding will also be used to work with local communities to determine the best future use of existing college facilities.