The Mandurah Trade Training Centre, a building that cost $3,399,998 to erect, is sitting empty despite construction being completed well before the end of 2016.
The centre, next to Coodanup College, was purpose-built to provide students with courses in plumbing, gas, painting and decorating via training and apprenticeship company MPA.
However, funding arrangements with the government fell through when a downturn in the construction industry led to a reduction in funding from the state government-backed Construction Training Fund (CTF).
“The reduction in CTF support means we’ve lost the ability to deliver training,” MPA chief Murray Thomas said.
“While MPA Skills is keen to deliver pre-apprenticeship courses at the centre, we simply don’t have the funding to do so.
“As well as being unable to extend our training to new centres [like the Mandurah Trade Training Centre], we’ve also had to reduce places at other schools where we currently run these pre-apprenticeship courses.”
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek visited the centre while it was under construction in September 2015, when already $2 billion had been cut from their national Trade Training Centre initiative by the Abbott government.
The courses in Mandurah were originally promised to begin in 2015, but in December 2016, construction trainer Graeme Cochrane and his partner were the first to use the facilities, for a one-off three day course with Coodanup students funded by Coodanup’s own Vocational Education and Training (VET) budget.
Mr Cochrane said providing VET training was particularly essential in the Peel region, a youth unemployment hot-spot.
“Peel is red hot… it’s been red hot for a long, long time,” he said.
He said his three-day course alone had been well-received by all seventeen Coodanup VET students who participated.
“Look at these guys, they’re all busy, all engaged, all doing something,” he said.
He said it was a shame for such an expensive and functional building to sit vacant.
“It’s got lots of pluses, but if you’re not using something, I wouldn’t call that ‘underutilised’… it’s just a complete waste,” he said.
According to Mr Thomas, MPA’s school-based programs in 2015/16 saw up to an 80 per cent success rate with students gaining employment.
“That sort of outcome proves that funding is highly beneficial and MPA Skills is hoping the government will reconsider its current position,” he said.
He said the construction sector typically worked in seven-year cycles, and that although there had been a trough in recent years, they needed to ensure there were enough suitably qualified professionals when the industry hits its peak again in three or four years.
Mr Thomas called upon the state to provide opportunities for young Western Australians to build viable, long-term careers.
“It is not an issue that should be dealt with during a standard parliamentary term – it requires a long-term, sustainable approach,” he said.
The education department is yet to determine future plans for the building, and it remains unclear how the building will be used, if at all, in the coming year.
An education department spokeswoman said the five schools who were to use the centre will meet when school goes back to discuss plans for 2017.