Experiences of TAFE

TAFE and apprenticeships are an important pathway into trades-based careers.

A few people we talked to shared their experiences of entering TAFE or an apprenticeship straight after high school, or being a mature age student.

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Year 12, graduated, and I went off to a TAFE, it was […], where I got an Advanced Diploma in Visual Effects & Animation. And that was good, that was great, I learned lots of things, and eventually I got a contract job.  So I got this job making a training video. It was great, I spent just over 100 hours trying to edit together this training video for them.

While I was in Year 12, I really had this, and I still do, have this passion for filmmaking, for TV shows, for videos, that kind of thing, and I had already dabbled in this industry of animation, and I was really interested in it. I was actually trying…even for my year 12 media project, I made a short five minute animation thing, and it just made sense in my head: ‘I’m passionate about this thing. I can make money from this thing. I should just go into this industry.’

So that was my pathway, I found this uni that I…well, I thought, ‘Oh, this looks great for me. They’ll teach me my trade and stuff,’ and yes, they were very good. And one of my friends was going there as well, so I was just like, “That’s it! We’re going there.” Catch the train every morning, go down. It was great. It was very, very fun, and I reckon if I still keep working in this industry, I’m just going to have fun every day of my life. It was very enjoyable.


My first full time job was when I started my apprenticeship. So, straight after VCE I was offered a job as a solid plasterer, so, rendering. And I did that for five years. And I was, every week at the end of the month, I would travel down to Melbourne where I conducted trade school at [TAFE name] for a full week, and did that for four years, and stayed on working for that same employer for one year, and decided that I wanted to make more money, and used my connections and my networks through football to get some work as a sole trader. So, I went out at the age of 21 as a sole trader and worked for a number of businesses around the Bendigo, Castlemaine, Maryborough area for three years.

And then I moved to Melbourne, and I went on and started doing work in Melbourne for a year as a retro, as a sole trader continued. And I got an offer from a local that was visiting, to play football for their football club in Mount Isa. And if I was traveling down there, they would fly us down there, get us accommodation, get us into the mines and put us through certificates and licenses. So, I took that chance, took that opportunity, and I moved down there, started doing fly in fly out work as a…so, I worked in the mines for about eight months in Mount Isa. And then I got another opportunity to work building a power station as a rigger. Because at that stage I went through, did certificates. I’ve got my rigging certificate. So, I became a rigger and started building the power station. And I was on that project for six months, and got another…so, I landed another job in Gladstone, one of the largest construction companies in the world. And that was a $24 billion project. And the roster was four weeks on. They’d fly you home for one week. So I did that for a year and a half on that project. The same job, rigging. And that was a real good opportunity though. I learned so much on that job. How, I guess, supervisors and superintendents operate at a high level and how the logistics of everything, when you have 6,000 workers there. What really needs to be involved to feed them, to clothe them. Just seeing all that operation really got me, my mind thinking on where…

At what level do I need to get to be potentially seen, and being a supervisor, superintendent. So after that project, I moved to then to another project with them in Western Australia and the same position working as a rigger. And I was there for a period of time, and I guess the three and a half years of me working in a fly-in, fly-out position.

After that, I decided to come home and I started working on the 3G upgrades. So working as a rigger, replacing all the antennas for the 3G. And that was my footstep into working with, I guess, the network.


While I’m working for myself in, during the 13 years I come across a program, I heard from my friends actually. A program, […], it’s called […].

One of my friends told me…I asked him, I saw him at the job site and I was like, “Oh, what are you doing now?” He said, “Oh, I’m a manager for a foreman for this construction company.” And I’m like, “Oh, well, that’s good. Good on you. Congratulations.” He told me, “Look, I did my Cert III in Fiji under [college name], why don’t you go and have a look if you can get in.” All those times when I’m working for myself, I’m thinking…I’ve got to a level where I did everything, I’m good at what I do and I’m just…that’s it, I’m just there. I stopped it. I can’t go any further and I can’t go backwards.

In the back of my head, I’m thinking, ‘I hope there’s an opportunity that I can further my skills or at least get it certified or get a certificate under my belt to show my clients’. And my friends and my family said, yes. I know, I have good skills and I can certify that on paper. Because as we grow up and as technology increases, a lot of people depend…mainly they don’t look at your skills anymore they look at your paper or yeah, this guy is good at what he does on paper. But when you get to the job, sometimes you learn, you start working when you get to the job. If you have papers you don’t just know what you’re doing.

It turns out that there was a opportunity that […] is offering, a Cert III, applications went out. I went in, got an application and I applied.

We have to go in after we submit our application, we have to go in for a test. Now, to be honest with you, I went to the test. I know most of the things there, but names, now in construction…in the building industry, roofing, dealing with roofs, one of the cuts for the roof is a plumb cut.

And one of it is called a birdsmouth or a seed cut. When I went and sat the test, I did not even know what that meant. I did not even know what it is, plumb cut, I was like, okay, I don’t know what it is, with terms of those…that I did not know because I did not…I learned from my uncle hands-on, he didn’t tell me.

That’s how I learn. But for the name of it, I have no idea. So I left it blank and I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I might not get this because I don’t even answer the question.” But I did…what I found out later was the purpose of the test is to see where your education level in the industry is at. If you know everything, there is no need for you to go and have…that’s just my own opinion. I found out that if I knew all the terms and if I knew everything, they probably wouldn’t pick me. They wouldn’t pick me but rather pick someone that they want to teach in order for you to help the community.

And that is one of the main drive behind […] is to equipped locals, give them an opportunity because the certificate will be recognised in Australia, in New Zealand and as well for our community back in Vanuatu. It will sort of inject someone with the knowledge, expand his knowledge outside and bring more back into Vanuatu. Teach what…in this case, I’ve learned and teach to others and then push them in order to give them motivation to go.

So, yeah. When I got accepted to go to […], I got a call. I got an email of confirmation. On the call, the caller told me that, “Congratulations you got accepted to be sponsored, to do a Cert III in carpentry.

One main thing that I took from that course was the calculation. I was good at math in school in some areas, but not with Pythagoras theorem. Right. So, the triangle that, I’m sort of finding hard to understand when I was in school, but when they hit us with that in school and within, during the program, after the first day, I had a big headache. But after, after that, it all makes sense because after that, I took it out to outside to our shed. And we started measuring all the rafters to cut using the Pythagoras theory. It works out, and then for me doing that, it’s a major upskill because I know it’s, it makes sense to me, it could be just from what I was learning back in school, although I didn’t finish.

It just made, put them all in sense to me, so all the calculations make sense. I was like, ‘Oh, well, that’s why you learn it early in school, and then now you put it in practical,’ and now I’m using it, and I use it every day. Now I use it every day. So it makes it, I’m privileged and thankful to go that it, I was in that program and I get to acquire and acquire those, expanded my skills to that level, that when I returned back home, I was very confident. I was very, I was more confident than before, and I was driven and I get to see, I get to see a variety and different things from different countries and learning the standard, the building standard from Australia and incorporating that with my work.

It’s, it’s just put me at that next level when, the next step forward. So I was, I was honoured to go through that course. And what I learned from that course as well is that I helped a lot of my classmates because a lot of them are fresh, are fresh from out of school. They have no experience, they have minimal experience, and I was able to help to teach them what I know, and what I don’t know, I said, “Look, I don’t know, we need to ask the lecturer”. So, I found myself helping, helping, and teaching a lot during my, during the program and way before the program. And then after I left the program, I find myself still doing that, and it is a good thing. I like helping, so if someone asks me, if someone asks me a question about doing something, I would just tell them straight away.

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  • Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
  • Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
  • Ashirah – University student
  • Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
  • Chris – Field Officer (HR)
  • Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
  • Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
  • David – App company CEO
  • Elisabeth – Teacher
  • Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
  • Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
  • Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
  • Leki – Physiotherapist
  • Luisa – Registered Nurse
  • Malelega – Legal Assistant
  • Marita – Writer
  • Rose – Workplace Consultant
  • Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
  • Semisi – Lawyer
  • Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
  • Teisa – Medical Doctor
  • Tevita – IT Professional
  • Thom – Make-up Artist
  • Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer
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