Short courses and on-the-job training

University and TAFE are not the only ways to learn skills for work – short courses and on-the job training are other important avenues.

The people we spoke to shared their experiences of trying different short courses, and finding a course that they enjoyed by chance. Others described learning skills through work experience.

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So I left and I went to New Zealand again. And I did a makeup course. […], they had a 10-week crash course. They offered that instead of a full year. I enrolled to do that, and then again I actually really sucked at makeup.

I only did it because I wanted to get into fashion styling, and a stylist that I’d met while I was in retail said to me, “The fastest way to get into this industry is to become like a makeup artist, and then you can show them that you’ve got other skills where you can dress wardrobes, and stuff like that.” I thought, “Oh yeah sweet, I’m going to do that.”

Then when I did it I was like, “Man, I didn’t know there was just so much more to just slapping makeup on somebody’s face!” You actually have to correct their skin. I was like, “What do you mean people have bad skin?” Just like redness, I made my models grey, when I wasn’t supposed to make them look grey, I couldn’t even do eyeliner, but everyone in my class was killing it. I was just like, “Man!” I felt I was going through a midlife crisis in my 20s. I was about to have a mental breakdown, because I thought, “Oh my gosh, I have two kids. I’m married. I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. I’m not even good at this stuff.”

And then thankfully my friend, Ashley, she had an eyelash extensions business and she said to me, “Why don’t you take lashes back to Melbourne, and come and do my course.”

I was flying back to Melbourne the next week. She was like, “Just come and do my course. It’s $1,500.” I was like, “Where I’m I going to get this money from???” I was like, “Yep, okay, cool. Yeah, I’ll do it.” I hung up the phone, and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?”

Then I begged my Mum and I said to her, “Mum, please, I want to do eyelash extensions.” She was like, “You just did a makeup course, what! What do you mean?” And I was like, “Please, honestly I promise, I promise that Ashley has done really well in her business. She always talks to me about how much money she’s making and how it’s changed her life. And so I said, “This will be good for me.”

Poor Mum, she actually had to get money out of her credit card. This was cash advance. That’s when I knew, “Oh shoot, I better do well because now she’s going to be paying back this…when you get money out of your credit card, you don’t just pay that money back. It’s more, like the interest.

I did that, did the course and came back home and I just practiced. I was just practicing like crazy. I also sucked at it as well. I was just like, “Man, it’s just”…and even before that, I’d tried to start a clothing business. I signed up to these classes at […], turned up to maybe two classes and after that I was like, “No, this is not for me.” I tried so many things and that was a really funny time, now that I think about it.

That’s probably why Mum was looking at me like, “Dude last week we went and got patterns, and you wanted to do sewing. You were asking me to teach you to sew, now you’re talking about lash extensions.” There was always something. I always wanted to do something. Oh man, if she had not done that for me, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yeah, I came back here with my kit, lashed my cousins, I practiced on my cousins. I was taking six to eight hours just to put three lashes on each eye. They’re so loyal, and I thought while looking at them like, “Oh cuz, yeah it looks nice.” But I was like, “Thank you”, thinking, “oh my gosh, is this going to pop off? Is this going to be a thing for me?”


When I came back to Vila, I was hanging around with my friends, just doing nothing really. And I go into birthday parties and hanging around town. There’s not much to do in Vanuatu, it’s a very small country and least developed back in that time. So yeah, there’s nothing much to do. But then I saw a lot of my friends that got money, you see, everywhere we go they have money to buy food and drinks and I’m always the one they’ve been paying. My friends have been paying for me most of the time. So it got to a stage when I told myself, I said, “This is not going to be me, the person I want to be, depending on my friends and depending on other people to provide.”

I decided to do something, lucky enough that one of my uncles back home in Vanuatu, Fijian. Is a joiner, boat builder carpenter, he owns a joinery workshop. So I decided to go and ask him for a job. I went and said, “Look, can I come and work for you for a bit, just to earn some money.”

So he said, “Yeah, sure. Why not.” I started off working with my uncle for seven years, if I’m correct, I’ve learned a lot of skills from him. Skills that being where I am today, you won’t be able to learn or pick up. I was very privileged to acquire the skills from my uncle. So my education just stopped at Year 12. And I started working with my uncle after that. I was working for my uncle for seven years, doing joinery, carpentry, renovations. We do a bit of boat building but not too much. When I started working with my uncle, it was the boat building that was dying out. People tend to go for a fiberglass boat back home. My uncle have no work in building boats anymore, I did not learn from him most of his skills on that area. But I picked up on carpentry, on using tools or using machinery on building houses, slabs, concrete slabs for houses, frame, hang a door, build kitchens, paint, tile. Yeah, all sorts of…in the building industry. I was with my uncle for seven years. And then what happened was I went away for holiday in New Zealand for a bit. I was there for three months.


So I looked up online and I came across a job seminar. And I thought, “Okay, cool.” So I grabbed a couple of my friends and I was like, “Hey, look, do you want to come with me, I want to go to this seminar, I need to find something for me to do?” And they’re like, “Yeah, of course.” So we went along, there was four of us and nothing was jumping out. It was a massive seminar.

We were there for like an hour or two. It was near the end and we were coming to the very end of our I suppose our little trip, I should say. And we had come across this massive stage/stall and it was a beauty academy. They specialised in hair, makeup, nails, special effects, all of that. So it was a huge, huge stall. It was basically, the biggest one there. And it was pumping music, and it was vibrant and loud, and they had barbers going and hairdressers and makeup artists going and everything, but it still didn’t jump out at me. I wasn’t interested in it at all.

So anyway, so my friends were like, “We’re going to sign up.” I was like, “All right, well, I’m not going to sign up because it’s not for me.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to go to the open day which is in a week, so if you come with us you can just hang with us.” I was like, “Okay, cool.”

So come a week, and we go to the open day and they’re all excited and they see the same barbers that they saw and they’re all talking to them and whatnot. And I’m just kind of sitting there, unimpressed. I just didn’t really want to be there. Then they had finally come to me and they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to sign up. Let’s sign up.”

So everyone had signed their contracts, finally come to me, and then they’re going through mine and I’m like, “Yeah, I heard everyone else’s, you don’t have to spend 15 minutes on me.” And then, they were like, “Are you happy?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll sign the contract.” Again, I didn’t really want to be there. Just before I signed, that tutor that I had seen at the first seminar, pops their head in, And then, he looks at me and then I’m looking at him like, “Oh, there’s that guy.” Rolling my eyes.

He looks at the lady doing my contract and says, “What’s he doing?” And then, she was like, “Oh, he’s doing hair.” And then he turns to me and he goes, “No, no, no. You’re a makeup artist.” And I looked at him and I was like…and then he caught my attention because I’d never even heard of makeup artistry. I’d never even heard of a guy doing makeup, never. I’ve never even touched a makeup brush before, never even worn it. So I was really kind of intrigued. So I looked at him and was like, “Do they do makeup here?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I’m one of the head tutors, let me show you.” So I put my pen down, all my friends and I went for a walk to a completely different area. The makeup department was on a different building across from them. And that’s why we hadn’t seen it.

And the minute the doors opened from the lift, that was it. It really caught me. It’s like there’d been an explosion of senses, my ears were popping because the music was banging. Everybody was just sitting there on the tables, playing, having fun. There was lots of color going on. They were laughing. It was a completely different vibe from the hair and special effects area where everybody was sitting at tables, dead silent. I couldn’t even hear a blow-dryer going. It was all theory-based. So being in this area where everyone could be creative and I didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body, that really resonated with. So, that was it.

I signed up to do makeup straight away. I did the two-year course with them and that’s how I kind of fell into the makeup industry. Like I say to people, it just fell in my lap. It really caught me off guard because, like I said, I’ve never had a creative bone in my body. I failed arts and I couldn’t even draw a stick figure, really, really bad with the art. I feel like it’s the most common question I get when people ask me about makeup artists, “Oh, can you draw?” I’m like, “No, I can’t draw and I’ll prove it to you because it can’t even draw a stick figure.”

But yeah, so that’s how I became a makeup artist.

  • ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
  • 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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