VET training in high school allows trade-focused teenagers like myself to get ahead in life, while gaining an education and invaluable work and life skills.

Two years ago I had a low image of myself, as I wasn't very successful in the normal schooling system. Many people believe the traditional method of schooling to be the best and only pathway to a worthwhile career, but joining the SchoolTech program in 2018 was the best decision I ever made. There are many benefits to Vocational Education and Training (VET), and the VET pathway has given me the advantage I need to get my career underway.

Last year in Year 11 I completed my Certificate II in Engineering Pathways (MEM204l3), and secured a school-based apprenticeship with Slingshot Automotive. I'm currently undertaking a Certificate I in Business (BSB10115) and a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology (AUR306l6), as well as working towards completing Year 12, and achieving my Queensland Certificate of Education.

My interest in mechanics began when I was around five years old and I started working with my grandfather watching and assisting him in repairing tractors and equipment at his farm. But being a mechanic has a new meaning to me now that I've had experience working in this field — it's not just about knowing how to repair a mechanical problem, it also involves having good people skills.

Before beginning my school-based apprenticeship, I was quite shy and had limited verbal skills when dealing with strangers. But an important part of being a mechanic is being able to communicate with customers and other businesses. My job requires me to tell customers exactly what needs to be done to repair their vehicle, and I have to be able to write invoices in a manner that everyone can understand. This job has definitely developed my ability to communicate with others, both in person and in written form.

My skills in mechanics are also improving. My school-based apprenticeship provides me with the opportunity to work on different mechanical problems on various types of vehicles. I was fortunate enough to assist rebuilding a 90-year-old engine that belonged to a Holden Chevrolet pick-up truck. I enjoy learning new skills from very experienced mechanics — they encourage me to undertake jobs that present a challenge, but guide me through the process to be successful. This has built my independence and self-confidence.

Recently, I was named the TAFE at School Trade Student of the Year at the TAFE Queensland 2019 Cairns Trade Excellence Awards, and I couldn't believe that I came out on top. It was really nice to be recognised as being a good student and a good school-based apprentice.

I don't feel that traditional schooling would have given me the same opportunities and experiences I've had so far thanks to the SchoolTech program. I believe that the communication, leadership and teamwork skills I'm gaining will not only help me secure employment after my studies are finished, but will also set me up to be an effective worker in any future job I undertake.

As I've learned more through my TAFE Queensland courses, I'm now interested in furthering my skills to become a diesel mechanic to work on heavy vehicles. And one day, I aspire to have my own mechanic business and give back by training new apprentices.

Available only at our Cairns campus, SchoolTech is an initiative between TAFE Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College, Woree State High School, and Skill360 Australia.


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