Vic firie training site 'over-capacity'

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An emergency services training facility in Melbourne's north that has helped thousands of students develop practical skills is badly over-capacity, a union says.

Since its inception eight years ago, the state-of-the-art $109 million Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) training centre in Craigieburn has become one of the most advanced training facilities in the country.

But the United Firefighters Union says the facility is struggling to keep up with demand as it calls for an expansion of the centre.

The union launched its campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement on Thursday, demanding real wage increases as well as investment in training facilities.

"The Craigieburn training facility is world-class but it is severely over-capacity, leaving firefighters without adequate opportunities to maintain and build their skills," United Firefighters Union Victoria secretary Peter Marshall said.

"The Andrews government rejected an urgent bid from FRV to fund two additional training facilities in the Cardinia and Geelong areas which would take the pressure off the (Craigieburn centre)," he said.

In a statement, Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the Victorian government had invested in training facilities to ensure emergency services were ready to face any situation.

They included Craigieburn and a new facility at Ballan, west of Melbourne. The Ballan centre is run by the Country Fire Association and provides training facilities for volunteers as well as other emergency services personnel.

The Craigieburn facility, which is managed by FRV, is Victoria's primary centre for training firefighting recruits.

Mr Marshall said the union's claim included a staged approach to increasing firefighting training places so that members and the community could benefit from enhanced capabilities.

In its pay bid, the union wants a 25.9 per cent rise in wages over the next three years.

The union was a key ally when the Andrews Labor government came to power in 2014, but the relationship has since soured over the restructuring of state fire services and occupational health rights.

At Craigieburn, students are put through 20 weeks of training at the centre, which sits on an 18.6-hectare site featuring dozens of stages simulating real-life emergency situations.

This includes major fires, road accidents, petrochemical fires, ship incidents and urban search and rescue.

Many are tailored to Melbourne's urban landscape, including stages with laneways and tram stops.

Leading firefighter and recruit instructor Lauren Lewis said the most challenging part of working at the facility was developing civilians from a range of backgrounds into working firefighters within the 20-week training period.