1900: The beginning
At the turn of the century, Perth was experiencing an explosion in industry and business. It was decided that the city needed a dedicated technical institution to cope with Perth’s expansion. It was identified that skills were needed in the areas of engineering, mechanics and agriculture. As a result, Alex Purdie, the Director of Technical Education from the government inserted an advertisement for Perth Technical School in the West Australian.
On the 16th of May 1900, the Perth Technical School (PTS) opened when 69 students enrolled in response to the advertisement. The Latin motto “Resurgam” (“I will arise”) proves to be most appropriate as the Institute continued to evolve to meet the needs of industry over the following 100+ years.
1901: Evening classes and increased enrolment
Evening classes began in 1901 and by 1904 the school had an enrolment of 384 students.
1902 - 1914: Affiliation with universities
Classes were held in the old Perth Boys’ School and a number of galvanised iron structures on St George’s Terrace. Over the next five years, PTS would become overcrowded from the increasing amount of students. In 1910, there were structural renovations that the Technical School required. In 12 years since its launch, the school had grown from 69 students to 1,200 students.
Among the subjects offered were Pure Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. These courses were taught by of the University of Adelaide. In 1914, the University of Western Australia took on this role, and then the courses were discontinued in Perth Technical School. A strong affiliation remained between Perth Technical School and UWA over the following years when the institutions continued to share equipment and staff.
Perth Technical School developed considerably during this period with several other institutions emanating from it including the Muresk Agricultural College, Girdlestone School and Perth Girls School. The college experienced many problems during the depression including overcrowding, dilapidated buildings and staff shortages but continued to grow; new campuses were established and new qualifications were offered.
In 1937 grants from the Commonwealth helped relieve massive youth unemployment in Australia resulting in new buildings for the PTS such as the Trade Block erected in 1939.
Evening classes were a strong feature in this period, allowing working people to get an education.
1930 -1949: A time of growth
Perth Technical School became a college in 1929. During the depression, enrolments spiked dramatically as students came to the college to gain skills when jobs opportunities weren’t available. By 1933, student numbers swelled to 3,014 students.
During World War 2, student enrolment grew to 6,091 students. The numbers of expert staff and teachers increased, as the Australian government needed men and women trained in technical skills.
Numbers of students continued to grow. In the years after the war, PTS introduced WA’s first course in architecture. Student enrolment grew to 12,930 students. Half of these were located in the St Georges Terrace building and the others were spread across various annexes to cope with numbers.
1950 -1962: Post war period
The post-war period saw the introduction of many new courses associated with the developing economy and included courses in the aircraft and automotive industries to cater for ex-servicemen who had developed expertise in these fields.
By 1950 PTS had eight departments, seven of which offered professionally recognized associateship courses. The Departments included Architecture, Commerce, Chemistry (Pure and Applied), Engineering, Management, Physics and Mathematics, Art and Trades.
The Commonwealth Reconstruction and Training Scheme saw many returned soldiers enrol at the Perth Technical School to upgrade their qualifications. The College offered a Rehabilitation Training Scheme for full-time training to 700 ex-servicemen and women, and part-time training for 18,000 ex-service students.
Clear distinctions were made between secondary schools and the Technical Education Division in 1955, which helped PTS gain a new site on James Street in 1957 – the building now known as PICA, (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts), became the administration centre for the campus and housed new departments of Commerce, Accounting and Management.
Women started to form a small but growing number of the student body during this period.
1955 -1968: Shaping the future of education
The late 1950's and 60's were times of significant social and economic change in Western Australia. With post war consolidation followed by the mineral boom of the 1960's, student enrolments increased and by 1957, PTS had 12,000 students. Half were located in the St Georges Terrace building and the others were spread across various annexes with classes staggered to cope with numbers.
In 1958 the departments of Art, Commerce and Management moved into the existing education buildings in James street, while the trade sections moved to Leederville.
In 1962 the WA Institute of Technology, (WAIT), was formed as another arm of “Perth Tech” as the College affectionately became known. In 1966 the Departments of Mechanics and Physics split away into WAIT and were moved to a site in Bentley. (WAIT became an autonomous body in 1967).
Perth Technical School now known as Perth Technical College continued with its chief task: “The training of tradesmen, technicians and para-professionals, the people who constitute the bulk of the skilled workforce."
In 1967 the College became an autonomous body offering associateships and post-graduate diploma courses.
1975 -1989: Expansion in Northbridge
During the 1970’s, most of the James Street building occupied by the Institute was demolished to formally establish the Perth Cultural Centre. Students and staff had to make do in a series of temporary locations, including St Brigid’s Convent in Fitzgerald Street that housed the Art Department for some years. Stage One of the construction of Perth Technical College at 25 Aberdeen Street began in 1979.
By 1983, further expansion was planned so that Central could consolidate and be close to both industry and transport links. The location was considered to suit the training needs of people in the Perth CBD, particularly in subjects such as management, accountancy, business and tourism studies, including those who wanted to attend in the evenings.
In 1988 Technical Education became Technical and Further Education.
1989-2000: Central Metropolitan College of TAFE
In 1990 Perth Technical College was renamed Central Metropolitan College of TAFE following the amalgamation of colleges at Perth, Leederville, Wembley and Mount Lawley, along with the Claremont School of Art and the WA School of Nursing.
In 1996 legislation was passed giving all WA TAFE colleges autonomy from the WA Department of Training. Central took the opportunity to articulate a broader Vision and Strategic Plan which continues its role as a leader in vocational education and training for the State, and also set ambitious goals of increasing market share in commercial and international business, including the delivery of programs overseas.
In 2000, the Institute celebrated its Centenary and a new building was established at 12 Aberdeen Street to house part of the School of Art and Design with the iconic public artwork of a pink container in the front of the building .
2005 - 2008: Largest TAFE college in state
By 2005, with the incorporation of several other entities such as the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Centres at East Perth, and Subiaco, Central became the largest TAFE college in the State and one of the largest in Australia.
Central continues to play a considerable role in shaping the State’s cultural and educational profile and in building a sustainable future based on the philosophy of education and training designed to meet the needs of learners and key stakeholders.
2008 Onwards: more expansion in Perth
In 2008 a new building for Printing, Jewellery and Design was established at 133 Newcastle Street.
In 2011 a new $62 million building at 30 Aberdeen Street was opened. The dynamically designed training facility completes Central’s redevelopment of its city campus and links all of its buildings. The building houses training portfolios for the key skill areas of engineering, architecture design and building and programs for the lifestyle industries including high tech massage and beauty therapy treatment rooms.
Central’s long-term Subiaco finally closed its doors in 2011, ending a long tradition of engineering training delivery at this site.
Central now occupies five campuses in the heart of the Perth Metropolitan area: Northbridge, East Perth. Nedlands, Mt Lawley and Leederville, including the newly refurbished, 25 Aberdeen Street
The building at 25 Aberdeen Street is currently being refurbished and impressive work to renew and revitalise the Oxford Street frontage of the Leederville campus has just been completed.
Officially opened in 2015, Central's newest campus has been designed to be the very embodiment of sustainable technology. The Green Skills Centre meets a six star Green Rating for design by the Green Building Council of Australia and is completely self-sufficient in energy and water usage. The Centre is a multi-purpose learning space that will be used to train students, schools, industry and the wider public in sustainable practices that are an essential feature now in most industries.