Robert Peoples, James Masters, Donna Rogers and Cheryl Sobczyk. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

THE $17.7 million refurbishment of Bendigo TAFE has smoothed the path for graduating students in health, community health, aged care and child care entering the workforce.

And it is allowing the institution to initiate some Victorian firsts, including building a short course to teach volunteer carers in the community with skill sets identified through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“It is not quite ready but we will be one of the first TAFEs to run the skill sets, working in collaboration with other TAFEs across the state and with the Department of Education,” Donna Rogers, executive director of studies in health and community services, food and fibre said.

“We are the lead.”

This is possible because the simulation labs constructed at the Bendigo TAFE’s new Health and Community Centre of Excellence make it easy to replicate actual experience.

And the simulation of a house is where carers can learn skills.

The centre was officially opened by Victorian training and skills minister Gayle Tierney yesterday, but students have been using the new facilities since the start of the year.

At Bendigo, students can now simulate experiences in an acute hospital ward, a sub-acute ward, an aged care facility, a home and a child care centre.

Students can also train in pathology in Bendigo for the first time thanks to the simulated lab included in the centre, an initiative that attracted enrolment of 25 students this year.

There will be other new course offerings in the coming years.

Diploma of nursing student Georgina Weire said from four beds in a crowded, noisy room, students were now learning in a lab that was well lit, well resourced and quiet.

“It is completely different to what we used to have, students are going to be able to do the work now,” Ms Weire said.

Lead educator health Cheryl Sobczyk said having the latest technology and equipment being used in new Bendigo Health and St John of God hospitals meant students on placement were spending less time learning about machines, and more time learning about patient needs.

Robert Peoples, lead educator community services regional said where once students were shown a picture of a lifting machine and given a description of how to use it, now there was a lifting machine available to use.

“It makes the students very employable these days,” he said.

The refurbishment has also allowed space for industry to use, and Ms Rogers said an invitation had been extended for companies to use the labs for their own training.

As well as opening the McCrae Street centre, Bendigo TAFE has been handed the keys to the new Food and Fibre centre built at the Charleston Road campus.