‘I’m lucky to work every day empowering people to make life-changing decisions,’ says Loren Costello who adores her profession as teacher/trainer, TasTAFE’s Devonport Campus.
‘Vocational education and training (VET) keeps us learning, no matter what stage we’re at,’ says Loren, who has a Certificate IV in Language Literacy and Numeracy. ‘It’s rewarding to see students who have struggled with education or personal circumstances break into meaningful careers.’
For Loren, VET is valuable because it provides real skills and increased chances of employment. This includes important literacy and numeracy foundation skills.
Loren works in Vocational Preparation and English Services Language with TasTAFE and has led the START program designed to re-engage at-risk and long term disadvantaged students. She works with Pathways to Employment watching students of all ages—from their teens to early 60s—make great strides.
‘Some students left school as early as Grade 9 and haven’t undertaken training for years,’ says Loren. ‘VET gives them a chance to grow. They can learn new skills, take sideway steps and keep advancing through their entire working life. They’re in control.’
TasTAFE also works with Tasmanian employers on special needs, including peaks and troughs with seasonal workforce requirements. ‘One older student secured a work placement with a local berry producer,’ says Loren. ‘He now works full-time on the employer’s farm and in their café.’
Loren remembers one unemployed student who struggled with a tricky homeless situation. Through VET the student turned herself around, finding stable accommodation and employment.
One challenge is encouraging students who lack confidence to give TAFE a go. ‘They start not knowing but end up loving VET and finish with a nationally recognised, formal qualification, and a career,’ says Loren. ‘It’s often a starting point for further study and new journeys.’
Loren’s passion for VET and for supporting disadvantaged students led her to place as finalist for the VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award at the 2013 Australian Training Awards.
Prior to that Loren was awarded the Tasmanian Department of Education Teacher of the Year for Further Education and Training in 2012.
As an Australian VET Alumni member, Loren is committed to doing all she can to raise VET’s profile.
‘I want people to understand what an amazing opportunity it is and how training can build on skills students already have,’ says Loren. ‘Age doesn’t matter, and you can learn for career or personal reasons. Even if you’re retired you can learn, like grandparents who want computer skills to connect online with their grandkids.’