Before Timothy Spurling became a horticulturalist, he worked on a cattle station, in a coal mine and even ran a tourism business. ‘I’ve always had a fascination for natural history, the environment and plant world,’ says Timothy, ‘Becoming a horticulturalist was a great fit.’
Timothy was in his late 30s when he stepped away from the university degree he had started, to pursue a vocational education and training (VET) qualification.
‘Uni just wasn’t for me,’ Timothy says. ‘With VET I found more immediate results. I had a career pathway that enabled me to achieve quicker. It was less research-based and more hands-on. It was more relevant to what I wanted, and I liked that those I met in the VET sector were highly supportive.’
While studying his three-year Certificate III in Horticulture, Timothy landed a traineeship at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, where he immersed himself in a world of exotic and rare plants. His career blossomed when he won the 2015 South Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year, and went on to represent South Australia in the same category at the Australian Training Awards as a finalist.
While the Botanic Gardens position was a dream job in many ways, something was niggling away at Timothy. One day, it struck him. Timothy wanted to transition into the VET sector itself, aspiring to give back by becoming a trainer.
‘From a professional perspective, I knew I could build on my horticulture training but move into an area where I could influence in a positive way,’ says Timothy. ‘With increased confidence I decided to help others and so as soon as I finished my Certificate III in Horticulture, I completed a Certificate IV in Training Assessment. I’m now working on my Diploma of Vocational Education and Training.’
‘Winning the award and becoming a finalist in the Australian Training Awards boosted my confidence,’ says Timothy. ‘I realised I could get places if I continued to set goals and build on previous achievements. Success breeds success.’
Timothy is teaching full-time, including evenings and on weekends. ‘I have students with a wide range of needs, including those going through a massive career overhaul, mature people, those seeking career changes, and people with intellectual or physical disabilities,’ he says. ‘It’s exciting.’
As an Australian VET Alumni member, Timothy spreads the word that VET is as valuable as other education streams. ‘It’s of equal merit,’ he says. ‘It has many benefits. It can provide a solid career pathway a lot quicker. You can earn and learn in the field you want to work in. Also, the people you study with can become good friends and form a professional network you can draw on throughout your career.’
To find out more about how you can gain real skills for a real career through a VET qualification, visit www.myskills.gov.au
Book a VET Alumni member
To invite Timothy to share his success story at your event please contact VETAlumni@education.gov.au.