Euan Suarez’s dream is to be a teacher. After finishing Year 12, he was looking for a qualification that would give him practical experience in classrooms without committing to a four-year university degree. When he saw that Bendigo TAFE was offering a Certificate III in Education Support (CHC30213) as part of the Free TAFE initiative, he jumped at that opportunity.
Today, Suarez is glad he made that decision. “Bendigo TAFE gave me insight to the industry and gave me a chance to develop my skills within this field. After completing my certificate, I gained employment at Wilmot Road Primary School in Shepparton. Currently, I work at Kangaroo Flat Primary School in Bendigo as a teacher aide.”
Suarez’s achievement is typical of Bendigo TAFE graduates. With industry-relevant vocational courses, state-of-the-art facilities and a welcoming community, it has helped many upgrade their skills, prepare for further study and enter the workforce confidently.
As one of Victoria’s most prominent vocational education institutes, it is well-known for providing practical courses to produce job-ready graduates. This includes the Certificate IV in Engineering (MEM40105) and qualification courses in Health and Community Services Training.
Facilities complement the regional school’s large offering of TAFE courses. At the Food and Fibre Centre of Excellence at Bendigo TAFE’s Charleston Road campus, students have purpose-built workplace-simulated training facilities for the delivery of animals, plants and sciences training. The specialist spaces here range from a veterinary clinic to a dog grooming salon and greenhouses.
Over at the Health and Community Centre of Excellence, aspiring health professionals and experts have facilities catered for face-to-face training, practical training and simulated situational training.
Joel Handcock, a 32-year-old apprentice electrician pursuing a Certificate III Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE30811) said the facilities on campus are one of the things he enjoys most about the campus. He said, “The facilities were up to date … giving us the best opportunity to apply what we do in the workplace at TAFE and vice versa.”
Handcock originally started as a fitter before he switched careers to electrotechnology to pursue his passion in building computers at Bendigo TAFE. It’s been a successful trajectory since: in 2019, Handcock won the GAN International Apprentice Scholarship and two awards — Electrical Apprentice of the Year and Overall Apprentice of the Year. “It was an incredible year for me award-wise. I was blown away to be so successful and the opportunities it has provided me has been astonishing.” he said.
With the Free TAFE initiative, students from all walks of life will be able to kick-start their very own Bendigo TAFE success story. The government initiative covers tuition fees for eligible students in courses that lead to priority occupations — those in demand from employers in the Victorian economy. These range from work in the modern agriculture industry, to rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme and delivering major infrastructure projects. Students gearing to work in one of the fastest growing industries in Australia can opt for the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing, Home and Community) (CHC33015).
Free TAFE courses include non-apprenticeship courses and pre-apprenticeship courses that provide pathways to apprenticeships. This provides a range of options for students to tailor their courses to their life commitments. For example, aspiring engineers can opt for the non-apprenticeship Certificate IV in Engineering (MEM40105) or sign up for the apprenticeship pathway course Certificate II in Engineering Studies (22470VIC). There are Free TAFE courses that can be started online too: Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30113) and Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50113).
Bendigo TAFE is located close to the train station, making it easy for students to travel to and from the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) under the Australian Quality Training Framework. Bus routes also connect the campus with the Bendigo Railway Station and CBD.
The campus is undergoing a revitalisation worth 60 million Australian dollars. Two new buildings will be constructed on the campus and heritage buildings repurposed. New facilities will have a Learning Hub, collaborative spaces for students, teachers and the community, and an Industry Innovation Centre.
It’s a new space befitting Bendigo TAFE’s large, diverse community of staff and students. Brittany Maskell, 26, benefited greatly from the connections she made from her time studying there. Teachers, mentors and clients have followed her journey from assault survivor to Diploma of Beauty Therapy (SHB50115) graduate to being crowned Bendigo TAFE’s Student of The Year for 2019.
The highlight of her time here was the client to therapist interactions. “From day one, being able to apply what we were learning to real people and paying clients was so great. Getting into an industry that is all about giving amazing client experience made me feel very confident in the skills I was building … to be the best beauty therapist I could be,” she said.
She is thankful for the many professional development opportunities she received. “Throughout my studies I was given many opportunities to work with and learn from industry leaders,” she said. Maskell got to learn from partners such as Crown Brushes, Lycon Cosmetics Australia, Caronlab Australia Pty Ltd, Algologie, and Dermalogica Skincare. “With so much knowledge and contact with local industry partners as well as big company brands dominating the beauty field it excelled my learning and developed many areas of my understanding,” she said.