When Emilia Montague first started her vocational education and training (VET) qualification at TAFE she was, in her own words, shy and not comfortable saying hello to anyone.
In a relatively short time, she was oozing with confidence, an essential skill given that Emilia's chosen career is in hospitality.
"At TAFE, learning practical lessons in a training environment where both the teachers and students' are there to help you, is amazing. It took me out of my comfort zone and I can now talk to anyone," says Emilia.
Emilia's confidence soared to the degree that one of her teachers recommended she apply for the WorldSkills Australia competition in Restaurant Service. Representing Queensland, Emilia won the regional category in 2015 and then the national title in 2016.
Next up, she found herself competing internationally, representing Australia in 2017 at the WorldSkills International competition in Abu Dhabi.
"The international competition went for four days, with a different style of service each day - banquets, fine dining, bar and barista, and casual service," says Emilia. "You compete on many levels, including the way you stand and speak, personal presentation, table presentation, greeting guests and serving them when seated."
Emilia feels that VET is a strong educational pathway in part because the teachers have direct industry skills and engage students through their own experience and stories.
"WorldSkills Australia and the Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors Program has opened so many doors for me," says Emilia. "At Pinnacle People I was one of only five per cent of staff selected to provide hospitality services to high-profile organisations and senior professionals."
Emilia is also a member of the Australian VET Alumni and is determined to showcase VET and its benefits.
"I embarked on a vocational path right out of high school and loved it from the beginning," says Emilia. "It's different to uni but just as valuable, especially with the blend of learning and practical skills."