LOCAL students will soon have increased learning potential at their doorstep with construction underway on the new Scone TAFE.
The $6.5 million Connected Learning Centre (CLC) on Main Street, across from Scone Woolworths should be complete by mid-2019 offering a range of new courses from business to community services.
It's the third CLC for the region, with the first opening at Quirindi and the second officially opening for students in Singleton this morning.
Regional General Manager for TAFE NSW's North Region Susie George said it was a very exciting day for the community.
"It will be able to offer a broader range of courses that we're not able to offer within the community currently and greater access for people to courses we can link to campuses across the whole footprint of NSW," she said.
"A lot of the courses at the moment are around equine, horticultural and agricultural areas, so we will be able to offer courses like community services, business and a whole range of wider courses and wider variety in some niche areas that might be important in Scone.
"For us, we look at the community, we look at the needs of the community and what's happening in the economy and then look at our course profile to match the needs of the community."
Member for the Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen said while students will be able to enrol in a whole range of new courses, importantly the traditional apprenticeships and trade courses will still remain available.
"The courses are demand driven," he said.
"Often in town like Scone you might get two or three people want to do a particular course that might not be able to be put in place.
"But with the technology that's available through the Connected Learning Centres they can link up with other regions, towns and other students and a specialist teacher could be teaching 20 students on that one particular course from all over the state.
"So it's opening up the capacity and opening up the learning opportunity for our local students."
Mr Johnsen responded to NSW Labor's announcement on Sunday to make TAFE courses free in skill shortage areas for more than 600,000 students if they are elected in March.
He said the current government is looking at 800,000 fee-free courses over that same period of time and that Labor was "falling well short."
"Labor comes out and they scream lots of things about TAFE but the reality is that the Nationals in government have provided far greater opportunities than the previous Labor government ever did," he said.
"Labor have come out with their policy of fee-free courses and that still only represents 75 per cent of what the Nationals in government are doing.
"And it just goes to show they don't really have their hands on the pulse of the community."
The new site in Scone's CBD was chosen due to it's more central location.
"It's easier for people to get to, you can walk to it if you're living in town and the existing facility out at the racecourse will be considered for a number of options after this is up and running," Mr Johnsen added.
Watch a video of what the new Connected Learning Centres look like here.