Thursday, 30 January 2014

The New TAFE SA at Tonsley

As part of our service for both Adelaide homeowners and tradies, we have been visiting trade training institutions and meeting with a range of training providers. We were fortunate enough to have been given a sneak preview of the outstanding new TAFE SA Tonsley site and to meet with the Director of Building and Construction, Peter Nolan. To find out more about the range of training on offer at Tonsley, visit or telephone 1800 882 661.

Tradies SA provides homeowners with useful information about trades training in Adelaide
The new TAFE SA at Tonsley is on the site of the former Mitsubishi plant
TAFE SA at Tonsley, opened by Premier Jay Weatherill on 28 January 2014, is a stunning new centre for trades training that is set to change the way that South Australian tradespeople learn their trades and skills, and will provide the state with the opportunity to be at the forefront of shaping the next generation of the country’s designers, builders and tradespeople. 

We met with Peter Nolan, Director of Building and Construction at TAFE SA, and he showed us around the truly impressive facilities that are about to become the new home of building and construction training in South Australia.

Located on the site of the Mitsubishi plant that closed in 2008, and part of the new Tonsley development that is set to become Adelaide’s hub for industrial and technological innovation, the TAFE SA Tonsley campus will offer trade training from Certificate I up to Diploma level in all building and construction trades (supplemented by expanded offerings at the Elizabeth and Noarlunga campuses). 

“We will train about 6,500 students annually,” said Peter Nolan, “with about 800 on site each day. At Tonsley, we’ll deliver courses in all the building and construction trades, as well as courses in design, and so this new expanded facility offers us a significant opportunity to influence the future direction of building and design practice in South Australia. Students will be learning about sustainable design principles, with the campus’ own design as inspiration, and in turn we expect this to have a major influence on the way buildings are designed and constructed in our state in the future.”

TAFE SA is Tonsley will be amongst the biggest VET learning centres in the country, and undoubtedly the most modern, both in its construction and the way the space can be utilised, and the thinking behind its design. 

Bold, distinctive and dramatic in its design and appearance, the way the site is constructed and used will also have a significant impact on the manner in which students learn and the courses that can be delivered. Teaching and learning facilities can be utilised in such a way so as to foster a collaborative learning environment, and the fact that all of the construction trades are housed together for the first time means that students from different disciplines will have opportunities, both formal and informal, to collaborate, share ideas and work together on joint projects.

Tradies SA proves comprehensive information on trades training opportunities throughout South Australia
The impressive new facilities will train around 6.500 students a year
The versatile and fluid nature of the teaching and social spaces available will also lead to enhanced collaborative opportunities for lecturers and other members of staff, and more occasions to learn from each other. The size of the site and the outstanding facilities, combined with the centralised delivery of courses in the one location, also means that there will be greater consistency in the approach to the delivery of learning, along with a more collegiate atmosphere. A far greater range of training can also be offered as a result of all the lecturing staff being located in the one building on the one site. 

“Collaborative and student-centred learning will be the focus at Tonsley,” according to Peter Nolan. “For instance, under our workshops are a number of open learning spaces that allow students to engage in self-directed learning and project work, while the learning commons spaces are ideal for students to meet, talk and collaborate. This ethos has driven the design and construction of the new site, with teaching and learning spaces that give student opportunities to learn at their own pace, at the same time empowering them to take on leadership roles and to take responsibility for their own learning.”

The use of technology in the delivery of courses is another outstanding innovation and a unique feature of TAFE Tonsley. Peter Nolan added, “The emphasis is on versatility and mobility, with learning technology incorporated into the fabric of the building so that it can be accessible and provide the sort of support students need, on call. We’ve instituted a BYOD system (Bring Your Own Device) that allows students to tap into the college network to acquire resources and learning materials; we have a Super App for mobiles and tablets, which will be used to control many of the electronic facilities in the college; as well as a laptop dispensing service, where students can access laptops on demand.”

In addition, lecturers can access their entire library of resources and teaching materials via their digital device and so use them in any teaching location, and throughout the college students and lecturers are supported by Digital Information Officers who provide research and learning techniques as well as technical support. All teaching spaces also have video cameras installed and classes and demonstrations are recorded and posted on TAFE Tube, so providing an ongoing and up-to-date bank of visual resources that will allow students to watch lectures and practical demonstrations as many times as they like, where and when it’s convenient. Through the use of Lync 2013, information can also be shared with other campuses throughout the state so that those learning at other TAFE sites and in rural areas also have access to this unique database of teaching and learning materials. 

Peter Nolan believes that this emphasis on harnessing new technology is crucial for the future of the building and construction industry, as well as reflecting the type of students coming through TAFE SA. “We have seen a rejuvenation of interest in trades over the last fifteen years or so, and once again becoming a tradesperson is a really good option for school leavers. The vast majority of our students have completed Year 11 or 12 and are able to respond quickly and positively to ever-changing technology and work practices. This is why we have created an environment that will inspire, support and challenge the tech-savvy students of today.”

The TAFE SA site at Tonsley was designed by MPH Architects in Adelaide, with part of the brief being to combine the old and the new, and their success in achieving this is one of the many outstanding features of the complex. It is undoubtedly a stunningly contemporary design and concept, but the building is nevertheless filled with visual reminders of the site’s past history and use. Utilising the existing superstructure in an adaptive re-fit not only meant that an additional 10,000m2 of teaching and learning space was gained, but being located in a former car factory site means that the look and feel of the entire campus is overwhelmingly that of a place of industry, and so is ideally suited to the type of teaching and learning that takes place there. 

If you want to find out about building and construction training, visit
The building is designed and constructed in such a way that it becomes a teaching tool

One of the most significant elements of the site is that its actual construction encompasses numerous teaching and learning opportunities, while the building’s energy efficient design lets students observe and study sustainable building practices in action. For instance, there is evaporative air conditioning and under-floor heating in open areas, demonstration solar panels and wind turbines, and a 750,000 litre underground water tank in Main Street so that recycled rain water can be used throughout the building. In addition, the embedded carbon in the site has been retained, as has the saw tooth construction of the original building, meaning that there is a great deal of natural lighting, enhancing the building’s energy efficiency.

“The whole building is effectively a teaching and learning tool,” Peter Nolan explained. “All of the services, like the air conditioning and electrical wiring are on display and can be observed close up, while the entire plant room is completely visible behind a glass wall. An example of how this will work in practice is that our refrigeration lecturers will be able to teach whole elements of the course just by studying the building’s own cooling and heating systems, which have been deliberately designed to be visible and accessible for this very purpose.”

The location of the new campus will also provide a host of new opportunities for work and collaboration with industry, and take these relationships in new direction and positive directions. As Peter explained, “In the past, we’ve provided great training for tens of thousands of students, but the location of our new facility as part of a new industrial and technological hub means that we’ll be able to do this in even closer partnership with industry. The Tonsley site will also be used for conferences, exhibitions, forums, and ongoing upskilling training for people already out in the workforce, and we envision this site being a place that people keep coming back to—a place of lifelong learning. Our new home at Tonsley and our close partnership with industry means that South Australia now has the potential of have one of the most skilled workforces in the country.” 

As part of this emphasis on training and skills for work, and to help students transition from education to the workplace, the way the college year has been structured and the terminology and language used have also been refined so as to make the ethos, environment and expectations more akin to those of a workplace rather than a school. 

“Many of our students come to us straight from school, and so to help them successfully to make that change from a school environment to a workplace, we have introduced new practices at TAFE Tonsley. For instance, we don’t operate around school or university terms; rather we are open for business 50 weeks a year. This means that we are a place where tradesmen and apprentices come to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it, and we provide a learning environment that acknowledges that our students are in the workforce, and getting paid to enhance their qualifications. We want to be seen very much as part of industry and so this is reflected in our course offerings, the times when students can access learning, and the way the college is organised.”

TAFE SA Tonsley puts South Australia in a unique position to support the development of a new breed of professional tradespeople. “Our emphasis on sustainability and the way the entire site exemplifies these practices means that we are training the next generation in such a way that our graduates should be leading the way in design and building practices right across Australia and beyond in the coming years. We feel confident that our collaborative environment, and our emphasis on innovation, means that our graduates will be innovators too, and open to trying to new things in new and different ways.”

To find out more about the range of trades training and the outstanding facilities on offer at TAFE SA Tonsley, visit or telephone 1800 882 661.

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