From modest beginnings as a technical school in Collingwood in the early 1910s, NMIT has grown to become the largest provider of vocational and technical education in Melbourne’s north with current course enrolments exceeding 65, 000.
NMIT’s history reflects the rise of vocational education in Victoria over the course of the twentieth century and, in the new millennium, NMIT is committed to providing practical, personal and empowering education. The Institute is intent on providing real avenues to employment and further education for early school leavers to those beyond retirement age.
The origins of NMIT are based in the sociology of the past; a time when adequate technical education was lacking and became a focus in the Victorian Parliament early in the 20th century. After much debate and discussion among politicians and educationalists, the 1910 Education Act No 2301 was passed, making possible the establishment of new technical schools to address the dearth of skilled trades people.
Collingwood Technical School
Just two years later in July 1912, Collingwood Technical School (CTS) opened in modified bluestone buildings at 35 Johnston St, originally built in 1853 as the Collingwood Town Hall and Court House. Within three weeks, there were 57 boys enrolled – studying preliminary carpentry and pattern-making, plumbing, engineering, sheet iron work and bricklaying. They attended two hours a night on three evenings a week. Many of the students experienced long days – the young boys, some only 14, were up as early as 6am for their local paper round and were studying into the evening. Despite these demands, by September there were 72 students plus 12 Manual Arts students from Melbourne High School. This latter group was only the first of many students from other schools to study at night throughout CTS’ history.
In 1913, Collingwood Technical School opened its doors to juniors and took residence in new permanent buildings erected on the site. It was classified as a trades school by the State Education Department, offering carpentry, fitting and turning, plumbing, bricklaying and plastering, with courses in electrical wiring and electrical and mechanical engineering introduced two years later.
Over the next 75 years, the school expanded with new extensions and courses as education assumed a much greater significance in society. In 1916, during World War 1, the school was used to rehabilitate returned soldiers and a Returned Soldiers Training Scheme began. In 1931, during the Depression, classes started for unemployed youths and by 1935, the junior school had 788 enrolments, the biggest of any metropolitan technical school. The total enrolment was 1769.
In 1937, Federal and State grants were made available for a Youth Employment Scheme and there was a drop in junior school enrolments due to the opening of Preston Technical School. Over the next couple of decades, new buildings were added and numbers steadied. In 1970, Collingwood Technical School was renamed Collingwood Technical College following the introduction of 'middle-level' engineering courses in 1968. Certificates of Technology were introduced and, in 1976, the college assumed responsibility for high school evening classes at University High School as part of TAFE operations. In 1979, recognising a shortage of skilled gardeners, the college introduced horticultural studies in Parkville, with 96 apprentices enrolled. A year later, in 1980, the new Otter St building opened and was occupied midyear to be fully operational a year later. There were then over 8000 full-time and part-time students enrolled in TAFE courses at Collingwood.
Preston Technical School
In the mid-1930s the idea of establishing a second technical school in the north of Melbourne resurfaced. Seizing the initiative, Preston Council provided land in St Georges Road. Northcote City Council also offered money and by the end of 1936, the building of Preston Technical School was nearing completion. The first meeting of the school council was held in the Preston Town Hall and in 1937 the new school opened with 385 male students and twenty-one staff. Demand for technical education in the north grew, and within three years, the school had outgrown its buildings and spilled over into temporary quarters.
By the end of World War II, students were also being taught in classrooms at four state schools in Preston and Northcote. While the Second World War had halted new construction, building restarted after 1945 and in 1947 a workshop block was opened for teaching carpentry and joinery, fitting and machining, plumbing and gas-fitting. By 1949, there was a recognised need to educate girls in the technical area. Seven years later, Preston Girls' Technical School opened in Cramer Street with up to 500 students.There was also a push for the establishment of a diploma school offering tertiary courses in engineering and science. By 1951, Preston was the biggest technical school in Victoria, with 893 boys enrolled.
During the 1960s the college grew and developed. In 1966, the college council applied to affiliate the Preston Diploma School with the Victoria Institute of Colleges, and study programs increased rapidly. By 1977, more than 100 courses were offered and a decade later, the college had a student population of almost 17,000 prior to amalgamation.
Amalgamation and the creation of NMIT
The contemporary entity now known as NMIT was formed in 1988 through the amalgamation of Preston College of TAFE and Collingwood College of TAFE, to which was attached the Parkville horticulture campus. The new entity, originally called Northern Metropolitan College of TAFE, developed campuses at Heidelberg, Greensborough and Epping to add to those existing at Preston, Collingwood and Parkville. In 1996, the name was changed to Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and in 1999, the acronym NMIT was adopted. There were also training centres at Eden Park and Yan Yean, and during 2002, a training centre was opened at Yarra Glen in the Yarra Valley and new campus in Ararat. In 2004, NMIT opened another campus at Fairfield after the Parkville campus was closed. Since then additional training centres have opened at Broadmeadows (Northern AMEP Centre) and the Kyneton Park racing centre.
NMIT is now accredited to deliver over 500 nationally recognised qualifications and more than 400 Institute accredited courses in everything from accounting to equine studies, childcare to commercial cookery, fitting and turning to floristry and beauty therapy to meat processing. These study programs are delivered by seven faculties – Earth Sciences, Further Education, Hospitality, Tourism and Personal Services, Building and Construction, Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering and Business – across seven campuses and six specialist training centres throughout the northern region of Melbourne and country Victoria.
NMIT now encompasses a broad course range that transcends the days of carpentry, plumbing and sheet metal, with programs that include pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor degrees. There are also articulated pathways to university studies and NMIT hosts a large cohort of international students as well as delivering programs with 25 partner institutions throughout Asia.
Finally, perhaps one of the most significant aspects of NMIT’s development is the links the Institute has forged with industry and the community which still permeate NMIT today. It is one of NMIT's greatest strengths that students are taught by teachers who are directly involved with and work in the industries in which they are teaching, and courses are designed to meet the needs of industry and business in the region.