August 9th, 2016

A group of Vocational Training automotive students have demonstrated their professional skill sets with a makeover of former World Champion V8 superboat driver Slade Stanley’s boat. Successful projects and opportunities such as these have worked to highlight Vocational Education as an ideal pathway for those wanting to pursue a career in mechanics or engineering, professions which are to be of focus during National Skills Week in August.

AutoSkills Australia states that Australia is experiencing a national skills shortage of 21, 800 workers in the auto industry, which if continued could see the end of the motor manufacturing industry despite the fact that there are 18.4 million registered motor vehicles on the roads, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Students from TAFE Riverina help us better understand how this crisis can be averted.

Over six months, six TAFE NSW Riverina Institute Automotive Refinishing students turned Slade Stanley’s boat from one that was on the brink of disaster, to a streamlined vehicle that Slade described as “really impressive,” to the the Daily Advertiser. He also revealed that it was once very “beaten up” but the transformation done by the students will now make him the centre of attention on the track.

Ian Chalmers, Vehicle Painting Teacher at Riverina Institute, congratulated the students on their project triumph and revealed to Riverina Institute News the technical process the students undertook, which consisted of a number of intricate stages such as removing the old paint, performing minor repairs and re-applying the primers.

“Students love this art form of our trade and they get a chance to do a job that is out of the ordinary, plus show off the skills they have gained over the three years of their TAFE studies,” Ian said to Riverina Institute News.

Projects such as these reveal VET to be appropriately skilling Australia’s future workforce, according to SkillsOne General Manager Kirstin Casey.

“Vocational Education creates Industry connections, and relationships with professionals in the workforce so that students can be provided with important practical and technical training that will allow them to make a smooth transition into the workforce,” Kirstin said.

“Australia is in need of professionals in auto mechanics and engineering, and employers seek VET students to fill these positions in the workforce because of the world-class training they have been provided.”

A similar story to that of Slade Stanley’s boat transformation is that of Wenona School restoring a 1968 Morris Minor Mini in an effort to get more women into STEM. Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane believes more women need to be encouraged to enter an engineering career.

“At the moment we don’t have many women doing engineering, only 11 percent of the workforce … and they make up under 20 percent of the number of students studying engineering, so things are already lopsided,” Mary said to SkillsOne.

In an effort to encourage more girls to enter science and engineering, Head Teacher of STEM at Wenona School for Girls Andy Draper thought it appropriate to face this challenge hands-on, and so he presented the girls with the task of re-vamping a car.

Briony Scott from Wenona reflects on the project as an effective and rewarding one. “What we were trying to do when we introduced the car was to challenge [the girls’] thinking, and usually girls are not associated with cars much … but as they began to experiment and they began to give it a go, it was a- lot of fun and they learnt new skills in an area that they would never have been traditionally exposed to,” Briony said to SkillsOne.

National Skills Week will assist in spreading the message about VET as a pathway, and help motivate more women to consider a career in a sector lacking their numbers such as engineering, auto mechanics and trades. Australian Trainings Awards Alumni and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors will assist in this effort from August 29th, when the weeklong celebrations kick off.

Australian Training Awards 2012 Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year Finalist and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassador Sharine Milne secured a future on two wheels as a motorcycle mechanic after completing a course through TAFE.

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you that just because you have a specific gender you can’t do something. You can always prove them wrong!” Sharine said.

“I remember saying to my boss on the first day of my apprenticeship that I would own the business one day. And I did! I finished my trade. I did the managerial course and I now own the business and I’ve done it in under 10 years. And best of all I get time with my daughter.”

Sharine excelled in her vocational studies, which resulted in her being nominated for TAFE’s Pre-Vocational Student of the Year award and being offered an Australian Apprenticeship. Sharine broke boundaries and VET propelled her into a career pathway brimming with success and security.

“If you’ve got a passion stick with it. You’ll always get what you want so long as you actually say ‘I can and I will do it’,” Sharine said.

For further information on Sharine’s story or that of other Australian Training Awards Alumni and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors visit and

Join us during National Skills Week and celebrate how VET can provide endless career opportunities to individuals looking to enter a mechanics or engineering career pathway. Organise an event, or take part in the many events that can be found on the National Skills Week website:

Subscribe for updates from National Skills Week!