Robert Lawson is living proof that opportunities through vocational education and training (VET) are endless, and exciting.
After completing his Australian Apprenticeship in commercial cookery in Canberra, Robert pursued a range of hospitality roles. He cooked for two prime ministers, became an executive chef and opened his own restaurant.
Robert moved in to hospitality teaching at TAFE NSW North Coast Institute. He then became a technical and applied studies teacher at a secondary school. In the next chapter of his career, Robert became Head Teacher and VET Coordinator at a country school.
‘That was 2011 and the year I won the VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award for NSW and then placed finalist in the national category at the Australian Training Awards,’ says Robert. ‘In 2012, Boorowa Central School won the NSW Award for VET in Schools Excellence. In 2013, I received the NSW Premiers VET Scholarship and travelled to Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) to research VET delivery.’
Today, Robert is on a secondment to the NSW Department of Education State Office as a Student Pathways Adviser. His amazing journey is about to take off once more. Having received the 2017 Churchill Fellowship, Robert will travel to America and the UK in 2018 to research transition programs from school to work for students with disabilities.
Robert’s faith in the value of VET runs deep. ‘If you complete a VET qualification you have a high percentage of starting out on your career at a higher base salary than even some university students,’ he says.
VET can also be a portable qualification and lead to travel opportunities. ‘A good example is my brother who is also a chef,’ says Robert. ‘He’s worked in the United Kingdom and Dubai and is now managing resorts in Thailand.’
Robert says Australian Apprentices should keep working towards their goals. ‘When I embarked on my journey, I didn’t realise how much freedom I would have, or how much in demand I would be,’ says Robert. ‘I also didn’t realise how many career opportunities would be open to me.’
These are the types of messages Robert is spreading at every opportunity as an Australian VET Alumni member—to individuals and groups.
‘VET reflects the real world, gives you real skills and supports you in keeping pace with changing times. It equips you well for the future,’ says Robert.