Tocal College has continued training during the COVID19 movement restrictions by delivering as much as possible through online training, with very limited face-to-face training.
In general, Tocal restrictions have been consistent with government advice that education opportunities should remain open.
An eventual 'lockdown' of the campus for residential students and a halt to industry skills training was introduced during the peak infection rate period.
This was to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 to the college population and to prevent any unintentional transmission in local communities across the state.
It allowed limited training to continue for residential students at the Paterson campus and online delivery for industry.
Training delivery during COVID19 movement restrictions has been a challenge for a practical training college like Tocal.
The college has a heavy emphasis on practical skills training delivering full-time and block release residential training at Paterson and a wide range of short courses right across NSW and nationally.
Much of this training has been on hold since the start of movement restrictions in March with most face to face training postponed in April.
It has only resumed with limited numbers and strict conditions in mid-May.
All students have now returned to residential and block release training at the Tocal Paterson campus and delivery of skills training to industry at other locations around NSW has also resumed - with strict conditions.
Returning to delivery of face-to-face training while ensuring the safety of participants and compliance with social distancing rules has meant the introduction of a range of new protocols for trainers and facilities.
Resumption of delivery of training at the Paterson Campus has been the focus of rigorous preparation and establishment of procedures for students and trainers.
For the delivery of courses to industry groups away from the campus, attention is also being given to ensuring that trainers and course participants follow the advice being provided by Health NSW which requires self-isolation, good hygiene and practicing social distancing.
All students are required to read and agree to a COVID-19 Student Declaration delivered via text message and trainers confirm that responses have been received from all participants.
Anyone presenting with cold or flu like symptoms will be advised to return home.
All venues are assessed prior to proceeding with training to confirm that they meet the NSW Government four square metres of space per person rule.
Machinery and equipment is cleaned with a sterilising agent prior to use for training, during breaks and at the conclusion of training.
During training, students are required to keep at least 1.5 metres apart in line with social distancing recommendations.
Hand sanitiser is provided, and frequent washing is encouraged.
With the provision of food and drink, good hygiene for food handling is implemented, with servers wearing gloves and using tongs.
At the Tocal Paterson campus, Certificate IV students returned to campus on May 11, and the Certificate III students returned on May 25, after an extended break.
The college also delivers a block release traineeship program in which trainees from across the state attend six, week-long blocks of training throughout the year.
Tocal have moved several of their blocks into the holiday period and before full time students return to reduce the risk of exposure.
All returning students were required to undergo a health check before being allowed to enter the residential or training facilities.
All students were required to declare that they are fit and suitable for return and that they will abide by any restrictions outlined by the government and the college.
Maintaining a safe environment in a residential facility has meant some major changes for student campus life to make it possible to maintain safe distancing and minimise the risks of infection.
Groups sizes and training rooms have been reallocated to ensure a minimum of four square metres per person in the room and 1.5m spacings can be maintained.
All touch surfaces on machinery and equipment is disinfected on a regular basis, as is safety equipment.
Mealtimes in the college dining room have been split and rescheduled to eliminate the need for all students to be together at one time.
Student common areas are cleaned and disinfected regularly, and students encouraged not to congregate in close quarters.
So far, students have been accepting and very compliant with the new procedure and accept that it is essential for their own and others safety.
Some training activities have been postponed until later in year to allow resourcing and implementation of appropriate control measures.
Alternative measures included replacement with simulations, altering training and assessment conditions and purchase of individual PPE.
for example, full time, youth education students are being provided with their own safety kit bag consisting of both horse and motorbike helmet, protective glasses, ear plugs, safety work gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand steriliser.
Overall, Tocal College has been able to maintain delivery of training to full time students and to industry through a very difficult period.
There have been delays and postponements, but the college will still be able to provide training and career opportunities for young people and for industry.
By Charlie Bell, education officer Tocal College.