THREE ex-students have spoken about the benefits of attending Bega’s TAFE campus.
Leayra Thornton, Georgia Wicks and Veronica Valderrama were guest speakers at the TAFE Illawarra Bega campus on Friday.
Around 30 people filed into The Barrack’s Restaurant as Ms Thornton, Ms Wicks and Ms Valderrama spoke about how TAFE had helped their careers.
The event was held as part of National Skills Week celebrations.
Manager of district operations, South Coast, Paul Goodwin was emcee on the day.
Mr Goodwin opened the event with a Welcome to Country.
First guest speaker was former hospitality student Leayra Thornton, who recently returned from a two-week exchange in Littleton, Colarado.
Bega’s Ms Thornton, 25, spoke about her time in the US and her experiences at TAFE.
Ms Thornton and teenager Kirsty Mackinnon travelled to Bega’s sister city Littleton as part of a 25-strong delegation (BDN 30/7).
According to Ms Thornton, the trip was about “fostering the friendship of sistership goodwill” between Bega and Littleton.
Ms Thornton said highlights included seeing a park and street named after Bega.
“It’s more than what I ever could have expected,” she said.
“The community is so welcoming – they acted like we were famous!”
Ms Thornton spoke about how being at TAFE Bega had fuelled her passion for food.
After completing a Certificate II in commercial cookery, Ms Thornton also obtained her Certificate IV.
During her time at TAFE, Ms Thornton also undertook an apprenticeship at the Commercial Hotel, Bega.
The mother of two said TAFE had allowed her to meet people in the industry and obtain the knowledge at work at an operational level.
Ms Thornton paid credit to head teacher of Hospitality and Tourism, Deirdre Jory, and teacher Dave Ahrens for their support.
“There’s a personal level of care… they assured us that we could succeed,” she said.
“Dave and Deirdre fuelled my ambition to succeed.
“My goal in life is to own my own restaurant, that’s my passion at the moment.”
Next to speak was Georgia Wicks, who was a TAFE vocational education and training student.
Ms Wicks, of Eden, juggled studying a Certificate II in hairdressing at TAFE and finishing high school.
“I wasn’t too interested in school,” she said.
Ms Wicks completed a three-year apprenticeship while working at a salon in Eden.
She said having TAFE in the local area was “well worth it” and she loved her field of work.
“Hairdressing is a chance to do different things,” Ms Wicks said.
“I think of hairdressing as art work, and the people who come in are my palate.
“It feels good, there’s something about hairdressing that is great.”
Finally, Ms Valderrama spoke about how TAFE had developed her English-speaking ability.
Ms Valderrama spent years in Mexico before moving to the Bega Valley.
She studied at TAFE Bega as part of the Adult Migrant Education Program, completing a Certificate II in aged care.
When she arrived in Australia, Ms Valderrama said “I couldn’t speak and I was nervous about moving here”.
“I really found support in my teachers,” she said.
“I can’t believe how many opportunities you can have in this country.”
Ms Valderrama said her studying will continue because “we can never stop to learn a second language”.
“It’s the beginning of my new life.”
Mr Goodwin said the third National Skills Week was about “celebrating what vocational education training provides”.
He thanked the guest speakers and community for attending on Friday.
“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate locally how TAFE contributes to the lives of young people, and the opportunities it presents them,” he said.
“It shows the diversity of what TAFE’s involved in.”