January 20, 2014

TAFE! Go there! Learn!

By Rosie Scroggie

The best measure of TAFE’s success, is not only the achievements of its graduates, but also their eagerness to credit their success to TAFE. “If it hadn’t been for TAFE…” is a sentence we often hear from TAFE graduates as they share their stories of how TAFE turned their life around, gave them the second chance they needed, or in the case of Adam Moore gave them the education they needed to pursue their dreams.

Adam Moore is now a Corporate Executive Chef for Campbell Arnotts Asia Pacific looking after product and recipe development. Adam grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney and speaks of always having an “affinity with cooking… it is something that I have always loved.” From the age of 13 he knew he wanted to be a chef. The only other job that ever tempted him was teaching. “I went into cooking because there was also an aspect of teaching in that.”

His first job was at the Novatel in Darling Harbour, Sydney where the executive chef, who had been a TAFE teacher, maintained an affiliation with the TAFE college at Ryde (now the Northern Institute). “And that,” says Adam, “is where my career started.”

“When I was an apprentice, it was $3 an hour… the money wasn’t huge, the dole was more than I was earning and I was doing an 80 hour week. TAFE was a great break from work, but also a chance to come in and learn lots of skills. I gave me a thirst for learning… it unlocked my creativeness and really got me passionate about what I am doing right now. And if it wasn’t for TAFE, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in… I wouldn’t have had the experiences I had because TAFE offers so much.”

The passion with which Adam speaks about TAFE is palpable. He extols the virtues of a broader education than what one could learn purely in the workplace. “It’s a very focused experience… it’s also cross functional. So you’re learning not only about back of house, but you’re also learning why. In the workplace you don’t have that time to slow down and understand why. TAFE is that chance to understand why.” At various points in his career Adam has upskilled, reskilled and learnt through TAFE. “I’ve done food styling at William Angliss, pastry, charcuterie, I did butchery at Granville TAFE, I did things that I never thought I would do - I do mathematics now, and I was so bad at maths in high school! But TAFE showed me ways of learning in a different environment which was relevant.”

Many of the graduates we speak to are quick to mention the teachers that bring that learning environment to life, and Adam is no exception. He speaks with a great warmth and sense of appreciation when he starts talking about his teachers. Looking around the campus he says: “one of the great things, being at the Northern Institute right now, is one of my teachers is still here. She’s the senior head cookery teacher… she played a major role in my life.” Reflecting on his teachers, Adam paints a picture of dedicated professionals who not only taught him to cook, but shaped a “young, misguided” kid from the suburbs into the successful man he is today. “The interesting thing about TAFE,” Adam muses “is teachers give you more than what they get paid for. Which is an aspect a lot of people don’t realize.” Adam is atuned to this “debt” he feels he owes his teachers. When his cookery teacher calls and asks him to judge a competition, mentor a student or even conduct a class, Adam jumps at the chance. “To be able to give back to some teacher that cared for me… I love the fact that I’ve still got my ties with this college.”

When asked what he would say to education ministers, both state a federal, in relation to TAFE, Adam’s voice turns serious. “Minister, hand on heart, you’re doing the wrong thing. You’re destroying the future of the country. I have a successful career… everything that I have achieved in my life is from the TAFE system.”

When speaking to Adam about his successes and triumphs, it’s hard to believe that the institute to which he credits his success could possible be under attack. And yet, TAFE, which provides education to thousands of Australians in every corner of the country, is an institution whose very existence is under threat. To someone like Adam, this is devastating. And to governments he says “You’re doing the wrong thing. You’re ill informed and you really need to listen.”

Adam’s advice to young apprentices really sums up the value of TAFE: “TAFE! Go there! Learn!”

One can’t help but think that governments could heed this advice as well. Perhaps if our education ministers were to go to TAFE, to talk to its graduates, to see the human evidence of it’s transformative powers – they would learn the lesson of the value of TAFE.

Adam Moore is a proud supporter of the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign. Make sure, like Adam, you’ve signed up at www.stoptafecuts.com.au