17/12/2015 - 15:17

Innovation school for Rockingham

17/12/2015 - 15:17

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Innovation school for Rockingham
TRAIN ON: Dave Simmons is setting up a new tertiary institute that aims to connect students to job opportunities throughout their training. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A partnership led by a Peppermint Grove-based engineering group is seeking to provide budding entrepreneurs with unique training and job opportunities.

Simmons Global has joined forces with Murdoch University and the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination to create a new tertiary institute in Rockingham.

The Simmons Group of Companies chief executive and former 40under40 winner, Dave Simmons, told Business News he believed his 16-year-old engineering firm’s move into education was a logical next step.  

“We (have) a reputation for being aggressive problem solvers for clients. We’ve done works with the Australian government, the defence force, the cross-city tunnel in Sydney, and these required some particular innovations to make them work,” Mr Simmons said.

He said the new training facility, tentatively called ‘The Concept Centre’ and planned to open in 2016, would link students with academics from Murdoch University and professionals from the desalination centre to develop products and services that businesses could commercialise, with an aim to incentivising those companies to hire students they worked with.

“By virtue you’ll be developing your own job off the back of the course,” Mr Simmons said.

He said the decision to expand on his 40-employee company’s commitment to using innovation to solve industry problems stemmed partly from its history of hiring 35 graduates to date, including one who had become a senior engineer at the age of 25 and another who was now the company’s group accountant.

“We are a young company,” Mr Simmons said. “Age can’t be a barrier in what we’re doing.”

The school will initially offer business diplomas, but has major plans for growth, including opening up to 14 more centres across Australia.

“Because there is no course in innovation and there is no course in commercialisation, we’ve started work on writing course content so we can put that up to be certified and approved nationally,” Mr Simmons said.

The new school also has the potential to capitalise on the desalination centre’s plans for growth.

Murdoch University professor of desalination and water treatment, and National Centre of Excellence in Desalination chief technical officer, Wendell Ela, told Business News the desal centre was applying to become a Future Water Cooperative Research Centre.

Getting the CRC accreditation, which is determined by federal government, and which several other centres around Australia have applied for, would be a real coup for Western Australia, Mr Ela said.

“It’s certainly a coveted thing to become, because it does create a real, stable income stream and creates a real ability to do things which you can’t do in other spaces,” he said.

Mr Ela said the centre was pleased to work with Simmons Group on the new initiative.  

“You want someone of that scale. They tend to be a lot more nimble and hungry in the sense that they are more adaptable,” he said.

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