TAFE NSW Newcastle upskills Australian Border Force

With Australia relying on sea transport for 99% of exports* and Newcastle being the world’s largest coal export port, it makes sense that TAFE NSW Newcastle offers a wide range of maritime courses.

In fact, students travel from as far as the Ukraine to study here.

Many don’t realise TAFE NSW Newcastle is the only East Coast provider of the world’s highest seafarer qualification. The training students receive locally is recognised internationally as best-in-class.

Australian Border Force is well aware of the quality of education. A handful of its locally-based marine unit officers have just begun studying here, across Maritime Studies and Marine Engineering.

“Career seafarers travel from across the globe to our doorstep to earn specialised maritime certifications such as Master and Watchkeeper Deck,” TAFE NSW Newcastle Head Maritime Studies teacher, Glenn Hunter said.

“This includes law enforcement agency officers like those from the Australian Border Force – seafarers who are tasked with protecting Australia’s maritime domain.”

“TAFE NSW is well known globally for our high-quality teachers, facilities and technology. That’s why students come from all over Australia and from countries as far flung as Ukraine and Pakistan to study here. More than 25 per cent of the 2018 students were from nations other than Australia.”

“Our maritime studies qualifications, offered in partnership with the University of Tasmania, are recognised internationally and enjoy a solid reputation for authenticity. This is something several other countries cannot attest to; many seafarers find their qualifications aren’t recognised outside their own country so they need to become certified elsewhere,” Mr. Hunter said.

Senior Australian Border Force Officer Scott Bickford is studying a Diploma of Maritime Operations (Master Up to 500 GT), a qualification that will upskill him to take command of larger vessels in the Border Force fleet.

“This qualification will allow me to take command of a Cape Class vessel or perform senior deck roles on the ABF’s largest patrol vessel, Ocean Shield.  These assets play a critical role in the ABF’s capability to protect Australia’s borders by detecting and deterring civil maritime security threats,” Officer Bickford said.

“I am very much looking forward to having the skills and knowledge required to work on these bigger vessels.”

At the heart of the TAFE NSW qualification delivery is the maritime craft simulator, which uses interactive technology to provide training scenarios for masters, deck officers and engineering officers.

Its real-life contingency scenario planning via five wrap-around vision channels lets potential skippers of boats of all sizes practice extensively before they take to the seas in real life.

Mr. Hunter emphasises that the fidelity of the simulator is vital to its ability to teach students, saying, “The simulator is so realistic someone without their sea legs can get sick while in the room.”

“The real-life contingency scenario planning we offer is an accurate representation of what you encounter when steering a ship in real-life.

“From the craft’s unique specifications, to the under and above water geography of ports around the world, to weather conditions and light at certain times of the day, plus unexpected emergencies and calls to change direction – it’s all there.”

Originally published in Hunter Headline

Hunter Leader | Rowan Cox

Executive Director, Atwea College (formerly WEA Hunter)

Not long after joining WEA Hunter’s Links to Learning team in 1999 her passion for education was sparked when she saw a logical approach to providing practical ways for young people to engage in education.

The result was the creation of the Alesco Senior College which has now seen more than 1,000 young people across the Hunter and Mid North Coast successfully complete high school studies.

This approach saw her progress through the organisation where she continued to identify niche markets and logical ways for people to engage in learning. In 2016, Cox was appointed Executive Director and continued, with the support of a volunteer board and staff of about 30 people, grow the not for profit organisation.

Today, the organisation employs 97 permanent staff plus dozens of part time tutors and experienced a 350% increase to income in just four years. In April 2019, Cox took the century old organisation into its next chapter by naming it Atwea College.

  • What makes a good leader?

I think there’s a couple of elements that make a good leader. I think consistency is really critical for good leadership. I think having a really clear vision of what it is that you’re trying to achieve as a leader, because if the leader doesn’t have a clear vision – how can we expect all the other team members to participate in that?

But I think clear vision balanced with a sense of humility is so important. I think it’s really critical that leaders are not afraid to have a conversation or a discourse where they might not always be right.

So I think a clear vision with humility is really important. And then along with the consistency is the setting clear expectations, remembering people are not psychic, that they do need to understand what it is that they’re trying to achieve. And so by bringing all of that together I think those elements make really strong leaders.

  • What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?

I think there’s been a couple of elements that have shaped my leadership style. I personally have a really strong need for developing respect and trust between those people who are working very closely together.

And I think that that then passes along to those who are within my team about having the mutual respect and developing trust between understanding that although my team members may not do everything the way I would do it, them actually achieving the outcome is the most important thing.

And it’s all right to let them go and to achieve the goal in the way that suits their needs best.

I think having the opportunity to be bold and try new things and to see them unfold and to see them work out has developed my leadership style around encouraging others to be bold and encouraging others to think outside the square.

But mostly I think what developed my leadership style has been the opportunity to be mentored by people in front of me who have helped tempo my very strong convictions with being able to see a way forward in a manner that helps other people come with that journey.

So my natural style is to be very strong in my convictions, and to rush at things and make things happen. But I’ve had the opportunity over the years to be mentored by some very successful business people and the leaders before me in the organisation that I’m with, whereby it helps me to see that rushing and making things happen just because I think that they’re a great idea doesn’t always mean that they’re going to come off the way that I see them.

So the opportunity to be mentored in good leadership and balancing those two elements together has been critical for the way I now develop and mentor other people in my organisation towards their leadership style.

  • What motivates and drives you?

The thing that motivates and drives me the most actually is not being tied by convention. I really like to challenge the shoes. I don’t really want to follow a path of we do things because it’s the way it should be done or it’s always being done this way.

I really like to find the logical answer to a problem and then enact that by doing what is necessary and what is logical and what is needed, but not necessarily being tied by them we should do it this way or it should look a certain way or it should be done a certain way, unless there’s an absolute need for that.

I think often in business and with the company as old as Atwea College we could get trapped in the this is the way it’s always been done or this is the way we should do something because we have a very long history and legacy. But my drive really is around finding ways to make things happen because they need to happen, not because they should happen.

  • What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?

It’s something that I incorporate each week, but it’s something that I incorporate most days. And I think the most important thing for me is preparation time. If I have a meeting, an action, a task that needs to be done I need to make sure that I am calm and prepared and clear in my vision of what is happening.

So, having the preparation time for going into that is really important to me. Because if I go in flustered, if I go in not fully thinking about and not fully being present with what is happening in front of me – decisions and choices get made that either have to be reversed or redone or reconsidered, and it wastes everybody’s time.

So as the leader in our organisation it’s really critical to me that I allow not only the meeting time but the preparation time to go into it. So, that’s either writing a to-do list, making sure that the points that I need to know I’ve written down, or doing the pre-reading that’s required for that. So the preparation time for whatever is coming up is built into diary as much as I possibly can manage.

  • What local businessperson do you find inspiring?

I mean, there’s probably a couple that I find inspiring. When you work in not-for-profit like I do sometimes you’re inspired by those who have a very strong philanthropic thing and then you also have inspiration drawn from people who make good business decisions.

Probably the two that I would name as inspirational to what we do at Atwea College are people like Melissa Histon who’s the CEO and founder of Got Your Back Sister who works tirelessly to ensure that a certain group of our community are fully supported. And she puts in so much effort and so much strength of her vision into what they do all the time.

The other person is our Amber Bibby who works for State Training Services and is now the marketing, other state market manager. And she’s in Sydney at the moment, but she’s been a long-time mentor of mine about being a woman in business and in a traditionally male-oriented education sector and how to have conviction of your belief and to make those things happen.

So, two very strong women are probably the most inspirational. But they do sit on both sides of that not-for-profit business where one is very strong in the philanthropic and the other is very strong in the business.

Originally published in Hunter Headline

Bradley’s Journey to Work Through Indigenous Placement Program

The team at VERTO is constantly inspired by the ability of our Indigenous job seekers to overcome adversity, turn their lives around and find employment. Bradley Flick, 42, is one such person.

When Bradley came to VERTO in early 2018 he had been out of the workforce for almost seven years. Bradley had spent this time caring for his ill mother, and was keen to get back into work. As an Indigenous client, an opportunity arose for Bradley to apply for an employment program, Resourcing the Future, run by Diversity Dimensions in Partnership with Woolworths. This program involves matching potential employers and job seekers, allowing the two to work together for a period of time, with the aim of securing ongoing employment if there is a match. 

Woolworths has partnered with Diversity Dimensions to deliver a tailored approach to engage and employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into their business and create meaningful and sustainable employment for the community.

In Bradley’s case, he undertook theoretical and practical training while completing work experience with Woolworths. Woolworths has been a huge supporter of the Diversity Dimensions program.

At the end of the program, Bradley was offered a part time paid position. He has now been a team member for five months and is loving his new role. “The program was great, and I now love going to work,” Bradley said.

Store Manager for Woolworths Bathurst City store, Michael Toholke said, “Bradley has shown great personal growth in his time employed with Woolworths. Brad came on board and was apprehensive about his ability to perform the tasks required, and how he would integrate himself into the team.

“Brad has cemented his position within the business during his time with us becoming a reliable, punctual and contributing member of our team. His desire to be successful in his role by seeking feedback and utilising the knowledge of those around him has helped us guide Brad to become the valued team member he is. Brad has taken the challenges of our business in his stride and continues to grow both personally and professionally,” Michael said.

VERTO’s Team Leader, Stacey Callan, said VERTO was proud to see Indigenous men in the local Bathurst community do themselves and their families proud.

“Bradley’s resilience, ability to get back into the workforce and to become financially independent is a credit to his strength of character,” Miss Callan said.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of his journey and to see him grow to be a role model for young Indigenous men in the local area.”

Woolworths also employed two other fantastic team members from the community with Bradley in the program. Store Manager for Woolworths Bathurst City store, Michael Toholke says both Halley Maree Kane and Stormy Rae Whalan are also excellent team members and are doing extremely well alongside Bradley.

For more information about the Australian Government’s jobactive program, or how the VERTO team can help you, call 1300 4 VERTO, visit verto.org.au or find us on Facebook.

Is sending your kid to uni really worth it?

Louise Roberts

As published in The Daily Telegraph, June 12, 2019 6:00pm

The dilemma of whether their child should pursue a university degree is front of mind for many Sydney parents with HSC mock exams on the horizon and career anxiety turning up a notch.

But it’s not just the exorbitant cost involved.

I’m convinced that uni education should now come with a warning — don’t expect your time here to prepare you for life. Or a job.

There’s no doubt our halls of higher learning have suffered some serious reputational damage, must of it self-inflicted.

Only last week this newspaper revealed that some Sydney Uni students are campaigning to tear down a statue of William Wentworth — a pioneer of this great city who came from convict stock — because he is a “known racist”.

Wednesday night, on Sky News, Sydney University student Will Jeffries explained how “equity officers’ were crucifying debate in the classroom to the point where students had to state their pronouns (I’m she or her for the record) before stating their arguments.

When I think of my 15-year-old son’s education going forward, I often recall his first day of school.

Dressed in scratchy poly-cotton uniform and top-heavy with a backpack, he stood before me so excited that my heart swelled as I saw his educational future stretching out before him as a glorious highway of opportunity.

Just think what they’ll be when they grow up, you daydream while cutting another cheese and Vegemite sandwich.

A few scraped knees, maths tests and swimming carnivals later and like me, you now identify as a high school parent.

And that’s when the fear sets in. After HSC, what’s next?

A university degree, yes that’s it. The marker of achievement. Well done, instant and continual employment to follow. Right? Not so fast.

Lately, my fellow parents and I are having conversations of a different vein with our teenagers, our sons to be specific.

They are raising with us — rather than us with them — the issue of employability and relevance with a BA or some such after their name.

Or as my son asks: how do you know that the debt acquired and time spent at university will get you a job?

A valid point requiring a deep-rooted re think of how we used to worship the concept of university education.

Perhaps it’s time for an overhaul so our kids are incentivised also consider vocational education — plumbing, electrician or building — before tackling the traditional white collar degree with an eye towards a profession like law, medicine, or banking.

We are churning out kids from a system driven by student demand.

Degree ticked off, the belief is they will be able to secure roles in their chosen field. Tertiary education should meet the needs of industry rather than training as many students as possible on a conveyor belt to career oblivion.

But that is not happening, of course.

The Federal Government surveyed more than 120,000 university graduates last year. Pharmacy (97.2 per cent) and medicine (94.9 per cent) degrees had the best job prospects. They are the exception.

Creative arts graduates were at the bottom with only 52.2 per cent full-time employment in the short term.

Anecdotally, I’m being told people involved in hiring panels are saying they don’t actually want to talk to these uni kids any more. “The quality is miserable, I’d rather someone from the real world that hasn’t gone through all that nonsense.”

Sobering, isn’t it?

Yet Gary Workman, Executive Director of Apprentice Employment Network which employs over 30,000 apprentices and trainees says that there is still a stigma attached to trade.

Kids in year 9 and 10 who are ‘pushed’ towards plumbing, carpentry, and the like are made to feel they are not smart enough despite 95 per cent of trade graduates being hired full time, he says.

However in Europe, and especially Switzerland, from year 9 they do a school based apprenticeship plus traditional subjects so they leave school with practical and academic skills plus a trade qualification. A gift to employers, illustrated by youth unemployment rate of two per cent compared to ours which can be as high as 25 per cent in some areas.

Going to uni does not future proof your kids, no matter their aspirations or yours.

Part of the problem is career advisers who have been to uni themselves, and for whom higher education is the path they are comfortable talking about.

Workman says: “The automotive industry is overlooked by career advisers because we don’t manufacture cars here anymore even though there’s plenty of future-proofed jobs like autonomous cars, such as 3D printing and so on.”

“Parents need to be realistic — focus on what practical skills your kids can learn rather than prestige degrees.”

“Kids are being pushed to university thinking that is the panacea for life after school and aged 23 or 24 wondering why they can’t get a job.”

I have a colleague whose son is planning a uni course in materials science and engineering but at age 17 is savvy enough to recognise the value of getting a trade qualification — in this case welding.

His father says that coming from a family of middle-class professional degree holders, the idea was initially shocking, until his son explained his logic.

“He said that way he would have money to go to university, and a skill, and understand what he was doing when he went to uni.”

“He said the thing that worried him was friends going to university for arts degrees who won’t necessarily be able to get a job and he just didn’t want to have to have that problem.”

The question for you and me as parents is this: Would you rather your child get a degree that you can brag about and potentially be unemployed or be out actually learning and using a skill that’s going to be in demand so he or she will likely always have a job?

Our children deserve that answer — and in their interest, not ours.

New $4,000 employer incentive just announced

Effective 1 July 2019, the Australian Government’s $4,000 Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) Payment is available to eligible employers taking on new apprentices in areas of identified national skills shortages.

What does this mean for you?

This means when you take on an eligible new apprentice, not only could you be eligible for $4,000 in standard Government financial incentives, but you may also be able to claim a further $4,000 under the AISS Payment!

Through the AISS Payment scheme, eligible employers will receive:

  • $2,000 payable 12 months from the commencement date of the apprenticeship, and
  • $2,000 payable at the completion of the apprenticeship

To be eligible, your Australian Apprentice must be a new worker* undertaking a Certificate III or IV level qualification leading to an occupation on the AISS Payment list:

  • Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics
  • Arborists
  • Bakers and Pastrycooks
  • Bricklayers and Stonemasons
  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • Hairdressers
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Vehicle Painters
  • Wall and Floor Tilers

More info from MEGT here.

Message from HunterNet | NSW Training Awards Hunter Region Winners Announced

Message from HunterNet | NSW Training Awards Hunter Region Winners Announced

On Friday 21 June 2019, Training Services NSW hosted the NSW Training Awards Hunter Region at NEX Newcastle.  

Following a rigorous application process, three of HunterNet Group Training’s employees were shortlisted as finalists for the awards, with one employee taking out overall winner in his category.  

Stephanie Peacock was nominated for Vocational Student of the Year. Stephanie is currently studying a Diploma in Business, following the successful completion of a Certificate III Traineeship of Business and a Certificate IV of Business. 


Nick Majurovski was awarded Trainee of the Year, Hunter Region Certificate IV in Leadership and Management. In addition to his Certificate IV, Nick has completed a Certificate III in Business Administration.  

Nick was also awarded Trainee of the Year 2018 at last year’s HunterNet Chairman’s Awards.  

Tayla Wiebe was also nominated for Trainee of the YearTayla started her career with HunterNet Group Training studying a Certificate III in Business and has progressed onto a Diploma in Leadership and Management.  

Tayla was awarded the Outstanding Achiever: Trainee at the HunterNet Chairman’s Awards 2018.  

Rebecca Ryan, Workforce Development Manager at HunterNet Group Training, said that each of the finalists have demonstrated exceptional customer service skills and a commitment to their training.  

“Stephanie, Nick and Tayla consistently work to the highest standards, inspiring other members of their team to do the same,” Ms Ryan said.  

“They are all dedicated to supporting their fellow team members and serving customers to the best of their abilities. They consistently demonstrate a positive attitude at work, which has rubbed off on their colleagues.”  

“This is a fantastic achievement for Stephanie, Nick and Tayla and a testament to the hard work they’re doing,” Nick Couper, the General Manager of HunterNet Group Training said.

“We see on a daily basis how well our apprentices and trainees are performing, and we’re excited we can share this with the wider community,” Mr. Couper continued.

We congratulate Stephanie, Nick, Tayla and all the award nominees for their achievements.

Jacquie Warren  

Administration Manager – HunterNet 

On behalf of the members of HunterNet


IMAGE | Nick Couper, General Manager of HunterNet Group Training at the NSW Training Awards Hunter Region held on 21 June.  

Regional Development Australia (RDA) – Hunter’s STEMship program has been recognised as international best practice.

Regional Development Australia (RDA) - Hunter's STEMship program has been recognised as international best practice.

Jonathan Barr, head of Employment and Skills Unit at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) made the announcement on 9 April at the STEM Workforce Conference in Newcastle.

Mr Barr launched a new OECD Report, ‘Engaging employers and developing skills at the local level in Australia’. According to Mr Barr, STEMship provides an outstanding example of how local partnerships between regional development organisations, industry, and the TAFE sector can encourage more apprenticeship training.

The STEMship program is supported by DPC Regional, Defence NSW and Training Services. 

“The program provides pre-employment training for secondary school graduates to enter apprenticeships as an alternative to university, leading to a full qualification at Certificate III,” said Mr Barr. “By working closely with employers in STEM-related fields to drive curriculum development, this program was able to identify the necessary skills and align training design with local industry demands in new and emerging occupations to prepare for jobs of the future”.

 View the report, here 

5 insider strategies to help you land an apprenticeship

5 insider strategies to help you land an apprenticeship

VET apprenticeships open doors to opportunity in a wide range of industries—but getting one can be a challenge. We asked five VET apprentices how they scored their big break—and what advice they can share.

1. Phoebe Giadresco, first-year apprentice electrician

Phoebe Giadresco, first-year apprentice electricianIt took 50 applications, 30 first-round interviews and 20 second-round interviews for Newcastle-based Phoebe to secure her fee-free apprenticeship. She credits encouragement from her father for keeping her focused and positive. “Dad kept on sending me opportunities and kept encouraging me to apply—he said, ‘Keep applying, you’ll get one’,” she says.

The 20-year-old is now employed as a first-year apprentice with the Hunter Valley Training Company and hosted to Liebherr Australia, where she helps fix diggers and trucks in the earth moving and mining industry. Her qualification is a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician.

“I’ve always wanted to be an electrician,” says Phoebe. “I like pulling things apart to see how they work, fixing things and putting them back together,” she says. “Some of my friends went to university, but I chose VET. It was the right pathway for me.”

In May 2019, Phoebe received the Milton Morris Encouragement Award at the HVTC Excellence Awards.


“From what I’ve seen, employers want apprentices to be ready and willing to learn and work hard.” Phoebe got her start by enrolling in a 10-month pre-apprenticeship program in 2018. This gave her valuable experience and credit towards her course. “I think being in the accelerated electrical program helped,” she says. “I did my research on the company and in the interview, I felt comfortable and able to do my best—was still nervous though!”

2. Min Mesk, chef

Min Mesk, chef For 23-year-old Min Mesk, a work experience stint at a local restaurant in Year 10 led to the offer of a chef’s apprenticeship. The Port Stephens-based VET graduate hasn’t looked back since.

Since completing her Certificate III in Hospitality (Commercial Cookery), Min has travelled the world and worked as a sous-chef overseas. Now back from a two-year stint in the UK, she reflects on those early years. A first-year apprentice at 15, it was hard at times to see her friends do ‘normal’ teenage things while she went to work.

“Something I always had to remind myself was that I have an insane amount of love and passion for food and the industry,” says Min. “Seeing the look on people’s faces or hearing the praise would really motivate me to push harder, work smarter and be the best I can be.”


“It’s about finding the place that suits you best—the style of food you want to be creating, the hours, the travel. You really should know what you want before just applying everywhere.”

“Take everything in, say yes, work hard, taste everything and, most importantly, ask questions. When I was a sous chef trialling other chefs, I could pick the ones who wanted it and those who just needed a job. It all came down to whether they asked questions or not.”

3. Blake Mulroe, plant mechanic

Blake Mulroe, plant mechanic Being in the right place at the right time can be an important factor in securing an apprenticeship. Grit and perseverance help, too.

After finishing his HSC in 2012, Blake spent months doing unpaid work experience and casual work with his dad, a diesel mechanic, in his pursuit of a heavy vehicle motor/plant mechanic apprenticeship.

“I didn’t have the experience I needed,” he explains. “Out of the work experience, I got a written reference from my employer, and it was a really good one.”

At 19 years of age, Blake hand-delivered his CV to six or seven employers in his local area. Through these interactions, he learned that many apprentices are placed through a group training organisation (GTO), which employ apprentices and then place them with a host employer. Blake approached one, underwent an interview and basic language and numeracy assessment and then, three days later, “I was offered an apprenticeship,” says the now 27-year-old. “The first offer I couldn’t take because it was too far from home. Soon after I was offered one closer to home. I accepted and started my apprenticeship in January 2013.”

Blake finished his Certificate III in Mobile Plant Technology in 2016 and is now working as a plant mechanic with Exact Plant Repairs.


Although Blake scored his apprenticeship through a GTO, he still believes approaching employers directly was a good move. “You have to go into it with the right attitude,” he says. “Face-to-face is better than email or over the phone. Walk into your prospective employer with your resume, and show them a great attitude and keenness.”

“First impressions mean a lot. You need energy and drive if you are going to succeed in an apprenticeship and as a tradesperson. You need to listen and learn from what people say to you.”

4. Louise Azzopardi, trainer and assessor

Louise Azzopardi, trainer and assessor It took five applications for Louise Azzopardi to secure her heavy vehicle mechanical apprenticeship. It was with the same company where she’d done work experience, and Louise believes this played a big part in getting her over the line.

“I applied for the position online with my resume and cover letter,” says the 23-year-old, who completed her Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology apprenticeship in 2016 and is now herself a trainer and assessor in the field. “I then got called in for a one-on-one interview, where I completed an aptitude test beforehand. In the interview, I was asked a lot of, ‘If this happened what would you do?’ type questions. I was also asked to explain a mechanical part. Doing work experience definitely helped as the workplace already knew how I worked.”

In her initial search, Louise tried a mix of things: she looked online, attended apprenticeship expos and approached some employer workshops in person. “Big companies usually recruit at expos and small companies like people to approach them,” she says. When a rejection letter would come through, Louise would console herself by saying she was “just waiting for the one that fits right”.


“Ask to do work experience. Then if you like it, see if there is a position at the end of the time. Do practice aptitude tests. Dress appropriately for the work environment — in a workshop environment, wear closed-in practical shoes, neat pants and a comfortable, neat shirt.”

And to make a good impression in your first week in your apprenticeship? “Ask heaps of questions and offer to do the tasks you are comfortable with.”

5. Kristjan Blacka, project support officer

Kristjan Blacka, project support officer For Kristjan Blacka, giving himself permission to pursue an apprenticeship was almost as big a challenge as securing one. Based on the NSW South Coast, Kris had spent much of his early career in childcare—something family and friends deemed a more suitable pursuit.

“I’d done a Bachelor of General Education Studies and a Diploma in Early Childcare, but I wasn’t happy,” says the 37-year-old. “I had always wanted to do something more hands-on and mechanically minded.”

Fed up with being miserable and stuck in a job that “everyone else thought I should have”, Kris took the leap. He enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course in vehicle maintenance and repair, and began applying for apprenticeship positions. “I lost count of how many mechanical-based apprenticeships I applied for. Most of the time I didn’t even get call backs or anything,” he says, “I’d all but given up hope.”

Then Kris’s teacher mentioned that group training organisation HVTC was looking for candidates for a fitter/machinist with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). “It wasn’t the exact position I wanted, but I was definitely still interested and so put my best foot forward,” he says. “It’s lead me to not just having a job with ANTSO, but a career!”

In 2014, aged 32, Kris started his Certificate III in Engineering—Mechanical Trade. The apprenticeship has since led to other opportunities, with Kris now working as a computerised maintenance management system support officer for ANSTO. “Without the trade knowledge and attention to detail I gained from my apprenticeship, I wouldn’t be able to do my current job as well as I do now,” he says.


“Always be yourself and don’t give up on your dreams. If you can, enrol in VET courses that will increase your chances of securing that dream apprenticeship as you will learn so much and prove to potential employers that you are keen and interested.”

“If you’re really passionate, opportunity and success will come”

“If you’re really passionate, opportunity and success will come”

rom Vivid Sydney to Hollywood movies and commercial TV, VET graduate Sebastian Barkoczy’s creative career is thriving.

It’s a bright autumn morning in suburban Sydney and Sebastian Barkoczy is putting a drone camera through its paces. The designer, TV presenter and VET graduate is filming for Get Clever, a Channel 7 show that encourages kids to explore and enjoy science.

For the episode, Sebastian has created a drone obstacle course complete with a blower vac, liquid nitrogen and sliced up pool noodles. “We’re using everyday items to test the scientific factors that enable a drone to fly,” explains the 34-year-old, who also works on Channel 7’s companion program, Get Arty. “It’s all about exploring technology through art, and inspiring kids.”

“Work out what you’re passionate about and follow that. Don’t worry about the ‘best’ or ‘most employable’ option—if you’re really passionate about the area you’re choosing, opportunity and success will come.”

VET opens doors to opportunity

‘TV presenter’ was never a job Sebastian expected to include on his CV. After high school, he spent three years overseas, working odd jobs to “just keep the travelling going”. Back home in Sydney, he fell into hospitality and retail, but, “I had no direction, no goals—I was just working to pay my bills.”

At 24, he decided to see if he could turn his love of building and making things into a career. He enrolled in a Certificate III in Design Fundamentals, then went on to complete an Advanced Diploma of Live Production, Theatre and Events.

“VET changed my life 100%,” he says. “It gave me direction, confidence, skills. Being a bit older, I was really ready to commit and I saw it as an opportunity.”

Since graduating in 2016, Sebastian has featured in the Vivid Sydney festival, worked on live events and music videos, and built sets and props for television and film, including Hollywood blockbusters Alien: Covenant and Pacific Rim: Uprising.

VET delivers the skills to succeed

Sebastian believes a key benefit of VET is how ‘real’ it is. “You learn what it takes to work under pressure with a team of people with varying skills, abilities and work ethic,” he says. “The teachers are all industry aligned and the learning and the facilities, it’s very similar to the real world.”

“Everyone in the industry wants a VET graduate,” he continues. “It’s their ability to walk onto a job site and know how to use the tools, know what’s expected. It’s a great transition into professional life.”

Self-employed, Sebastian works across a range of projects and contracts (at the moment he’s juggling the Channel 7 gig with another converting an inner city warehouse into a lush Buddhist temple-inspired bar). He relies on industry contacts and word of mouth to get his next job. “So far, that’s been my experience of the creative industry,” he says. “You’re as good as your last job and it’s all who you know.”

Navigating the gig economy

For anyone working in the ‘gig economy’, passion is important. As is resilience. “It can be difficult and uncertain, and financially it can be really hard,” says Sebastian. “I think you’ve just got to be really proactive—you’ve got to work hard in every job, leave a good impression—and I think more work will come.”

Of course, the ‘unknown’ is also part of the appeal. “You never know where you’re going to be in the next week or next few months,” says Sebastian. “There’s an element of spontaneity to the creative industries, which is part of the excitement.”

Hunter electricians shine at HVTC Awards

Hunter electricians shine at HVTC Awards

Two Hunter based electrical apprentices have been recognised at HVTC’s annual Excellence Awards, which were held in Newcastle on Friday, 3 May 2019.  

Daniel Beavan, who is currently employed as an electrical fitter at Origin Energy’s Eraring Power Station, was named HVTC’s Apprentice of the Year. The Award, which was sponsored by Howden Australia, was selected from finalists across HVTC’s nine regional branches located throughout New South Wales.  

“I was over the moon to have been named HVTC’s Apprentice of the Year. It’s a huge honour to receive this Award,” Daniel said. 


Meanwhile Phoebe Giadresco, a first-year electrical apprentice hosted to Liebherr-Australia, received the inaugural Milton Morris Encouragement Award.  

Sponsored by Glencore, this Award was created in honour of HVTC’s founding Chairman, the Honourable Milton Morris AO, who passed away in February of this year.  

“It is such an honour to be the first recipient of the Milton Morris Encouragement Award,” Phoebe said. 

“It means a great deal to me to be acknowledged by HVTC and my trainers for my efforts and commitment to completing the Electrical Accelerated program with HVTC. This program provided the skills and knowledge for me to be confident and successful in obtaining an apprenticeship as a female in a non-traditional trade.”  

Despite being at different ends of their apprenticeship journeys, Daniel and Phoebe were both pursuing other career paths before making the switch to the electrical trade.  

Already a qualified fitter machinist, Daniel decided he wanted a dual trade under his belt, so he commenced an electrical apprenticeship with HVTC in 2016.  

Initially hosted by Donaldson Coal, Daniel was rotated to Origin when the mine went into care and maintenance. Since completing his apprenticeship in December, Daniel has gained a full-time role with Origin and is grateful for the opportunities and support he received as an HVTC apprentice.  

Phoebe commenced the NEWSTEP program in the hopes of pursuing Nutrition, but soon realised that university wasn’t for her. Following in her father’s footsteps, Phoebe decided she wanted to become an electrician and enrolled in the electrical Accelerated Program with HVTC to boost her chances of securing an apprenticeship.  

During the course, she successfully applied for an electrical apprenticeship with Liebherr-Australia.  

HVTC CEO, Sharon Smith congratulated Daniel and Phoebe on their awards, which showcase the calibre of the organisation’s workforce.  

“Every year at the HVTC Excellence Awards, we celebrate the achievements of our apprentices, trainees, students and the many host employers we partner with to deliver skills training and employment opportunities across NSW,” Smith said.  

“The achievements of apprentices like Daniel and Phoebe are proof that VET pathways lead to successful careers.  

“Daniel took the initiative to undertake another four years of training after already completing one apprenticeship, making a lot of sacrifices for the betterment of his skills and long-term career aspirations.  

“Throughout his apprenticeship, Daniel was consistently praised for his leadership and communication skills, passion for learning and his work ethic and it is unsurprising he was offered a permanent role with Origin.  

“Similarly, Phoebe took it upon herself to complete an electrical pre-apprenticeship course to gain introductory electrical trade knowledge and skills.  

“Phoebe now attends the Work Readiness program at HVTC 4 days per week and is on site at Libeherr-Australia each Friday. Her tenacity and commitment to improving her career opportunities epitomises the characteristics Milton Morris would have been delighted to support and she is a deserving winner of this award.  

“I wish Daniel all the best in his career and look forward to supporting Phoebe through her remaining years as an HVTC apprentice. They both have a bright future ahead of them.”  

IMAGE | Daniel Beavan shines at HVTC 2019 Awards