Newcastle Herald, by Matthew Kelly
The University of Newcastle’s proposed STEMM transformation hub continues to be a project in search of funding three years after the project was launched.
Hunter Region schools have some of the fastest growth rates for STEMM subjects- those incorporating the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. But this needs to be complemented with a specialised regional facility.
The Committee for the Hunter has nominated the STEMM facility, which was valued at $207 million in 2019, as critical to the region’s successful economic transformation.
“In the new economy, people are our most valuable resource. Incoming business depends on access to a smart and skilled workforce. Investment in human capital will be critical to the region’s competitiveness, along with infrastructure,” Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said.
“Instead of fighting individual TAFE closures, efforts need to be directed to the co-design of a new approach to education in the region. This involves investment in skills and training as well as building centres that support new ways of learning, teaching and research that span disciplines and enhance innovation, as offered by the university’s vision for a STEMM precinct.”
The proposed 17,270 square metre facility, to be situated where the McMullin Building, currently stands, will accommodate 2300 staff, students, researchers and industry partners.
The project, which would be the largest capital investment undertaken at the institution and is predicted to create up to 2100 jobs during construction.
Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Claydon said the hub would be an obvious asset to the region’s transition to a clean energy economy.
“This project has been up there for the last three budgets. I have spoken on it in parliament and there has been zero interest (from the government).”
It would fully complement the sorts of policy works we (Labor) are doing. We have a massive investment into new energy skills program and we have got to train a lot of people with the specific needs of those new energy industries.
We have said quite explicitly in our new apprenticeship programs that five out of six new jobs delivered in these industries are going to be in regions like ours.
University of Newcastle chief operating officer David Toll said the university was reviewing its capital infrastructure needs.
“We paused our major new capital projects in April 2020 due to the economic uncertainty of COVID-19. We are now reviewing the future capital infrastructure needs in both Newcastle and the Central Coast. Our focus remains on providing our students vibrant campuses with modern teaching facilities,” he said.
“The STEMM building is an example of the type of contemporary teaching/research space that facilitates collaboration among staff and students. This and other proposed developments remain under consideration subject to available funding.”