A major training organisation has won the lease for the former Ballarat Secondary College site, which has sat dormant for almost two years.
Ballarat Group Training will be the lead tenant at the Barkly Street campus, under a five-year agreement struck on Friday with the Department of Education and Training.
The Barkly Street site has been vacant since Ballarat Secondary College’s class of 2016 completed VCE, after declining enrollments. A number of organisations including Ballarat Community Health had flagged interest in the site, but stepped back to the facility’s running costs.
BGT chairman Mark Schultz said the not-for-profit would operate from the site by January, using it as a state-of-the-art training centre to help young people gain employment.
“This is a historic moment in the life of BGT as we fulfil our mission to ‘create success stories through skills and jobs’ by matching high quality, work-relevant training with local industry needs,” he said.
Mr Schultz said the new headquarters would allow for more collaboration, with more practical placement facilities created on site, so job seekers can get hands-on experience.
The Courier understands the hub will work on a cost-sharing model for smaller tenants, with the Department of Education having to sign off on any sub leases before community groups can use the premises.
Groups such as the Ballarat Men’s Shed have expressed interest in occupying part of the Barkly Street space.
With sections first built in 1862, the site is located in the former historic Ballarat East Town Hall. It was also formerly the Ballarat Girls’ School and used as a School of Mines Ballarat satellite site.
It became the Ballarat Secondary College senior school following a merger of Midlands, East and Wendouree secondary colleges in the late 1990s and the subsequent closure of the Midlands’ Norman Street site.
Education minister James Merlino said the site would allow the training provider to expand their important work, while preserving the historic school buildings.
“The Ballarat community told us they wanted the former Barkly Street campus to remain a space for the community and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved,” he said. “It means people across the region will have better access to the support they need to find employment.”
Buninyong MP Geoff Howard admitted he was “frustrated it has taken some time” to get the lease agreed to in-principle due to the cost of maintaining the site, but in this iteration the campus will provide a community hub for Ballarat East.
“Knowing that a lot of money has been expended over the years on the campus … it has great facilities there suited to community groups, so it’s great to see that use is now going to be realised,” he said
Mr Howard said he hoped the “threat of vandalism” at the campus would now recede as the site roars back to life.
BGT owns their current Hill Street premises, with the not-for-profit’s board having to approve any changes. The Courier understands in the short-term, BGT will be looking for a tenant to lease the building.