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Career change at 55: TAFE NSW student forges a new path in booming industry

TAFE NSW Lidcombe

Career change at 55: TAFE NSW student forges a new path in booming industry

Mature age student, Ilias Kontogiannis, working as an apprentice glazier.

Amongst a cohort of youthful apprentices, 55-year-old apprentice glazier, Ilias Kontogiannis, is defying age barriers and proving that experience is an invaluable asset.

The Tumbi Umbi local enrolled in Certificate III Glass and Glazing at TAFE NSW after switching careers from construction sales. Fuelled by his passion for the industry, he recognised the burgeoning demand for products and services vital to the construction sector.

“I’ve worked in construction sales since I left school – but for the past ten years, I’ve considered making the switch from the office to a worksite. My age dissuaded me, but I was set on trying something different or learning new skills,” Mr Kontogiannis said.

“Through my work, I knew that glass and glazing products have been in high demand since the pandemic, so I thought it’s now or never. I found an apprenticeship quickly through a friend and I haven’t looked back since.”

Mr Kontogiannis’ retraining comes at an opportune time, as Sydney needs an additional 725,000 homes by 2036 to house its growing population[1] – and key to every home is natural lighting.

“I was excited to cover frameless windows, they’re new to the industry and becoming quite trendy. It’s great to see the learning environment is keeping up with the industry,” said Mr Kontogiannis.

Across the nation, the construction industry and building trades are projected to see a 6 per cent increase in employment, even after a substantial 12 per cent rise in 2022[2]. This upward trend calls for the recruitment of new workers, making TAFE NSW graduates highly sought-after.

For Mr Kontogiannis, retraining at TAFE NSW helped him fortify a new career path and refreshed his outlook on his own ability.

“If I knew how fulfilling it would be, I would have done this ten years ago. Age is just a number and it's never too late to keep learning and find something that you are very passionate about,” said Mr Kontogiannis.

“I am so glad I made the leap and have never been happier. My advice for anyone wanting to learn a new skill or career is to just do it – you are in good hands with TAFE NSW.”

TAFE NSW Head Teacher Mark Nicholls said Ilias’ story shows the transformative power of education.

“It’s inspiring to see mature-aged students like Ilias return to study later in life, equipping themselves with new skills and pursuing fulfilling careers,” said Mr Nicholls.

“Mature-aged students bring a unique perspective and a depth of life experience to their studies, which often ignites a newfound passion for their chosen trade and inspires their peers. This is definitely true of Ilias.”

Media contact: Vanessa Lista | Communications Specialist | 0450 442 109 |

[1] NSW Department of Planning & Environment

[2] Jobs and Skills Australia