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From cheese tasting to compost: TAFE NSW student blossoming career in horticulture


From cheese tasting to compost: TAFE NSW student blossoming career in horticulture

TAFE NSW Ryde is set to throw open the doors to prospective students next week at the InfoFest event.

As school leavers consider their career options for 2020, InfoFest will showcase many job pathways offered by TAFE NSW, with staff on hand to assist with enrolments, career advice and campus tours.

It comes as TAFE NSW Ryde student Claudia Bowman changed to a career in horticulture and is now operating her own gardening services business.

Claudia swapped her hectic life for gardening power tools and enrolled in a Diploma of Horticulture part-time at TAFE NSW Ryde. While studying, Claudia has the capacity to work on her gardening services business, McIntosh Bowman Gardens.

“Although I loved my career in hospitality and tourism, I longed for the freedom of working outdoors and getting close to nature.  When I realised I wanted to make a career change, I knew it would be unwise to try and make it on practical experience alone. At TAFE NSW, I’m developing a thorough grounding in the science and theory behind horticulture, as well as developing the soft skills required for the job,” she said.

“My office is now a beautiful garden and this is normal life for me. I can’t imagine being in an office, even though I spent thirteen plus years there.”

Already holding a Diploma in Hospitality from TAFE NSW Ryde, Ms Bowman has found laying new lawns, propagating plants, hedging, testing soils and identifying plants as the most valuable part of her studies.

“For me, it is all about the job satisfaction. I love seeing the gardens that I’m regular servicing improve and the plants that I’ve nurtured thriving. I love taking an empty or failing space and turning it into something that works for the client. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish that matters.

“I enjoy the diversity of the role, and that every day you could be doing something completely different; garden design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Being in a workplace that strives to achieve a future rich in flora and fauna is a great feeling and is aligned with my personal values.”

As urbanisation rates increase, there is a growing role of horticulturists in our cities. Green roofs, vertical gardens and rain gardens have all been driven by horticulturists.

TAFE NSW Horticulture Teacher, Anna Richards, said “Some people see gardening as an activity for the older generation, but that perception is changing. If you want to live in a city, you have to garden a city. Indoor plants, growing organic produce and sustainability is very fashionable which is driving the growth of the industry.  We need to use horticulture in all its capacities to improve living spaces for people.

“Students studying horticulture at TAFE NSW study everything from plant biology and ecology to water-sensitive design to maintain and sustain vegetation in cities. We do a lot of the skills development in class and then we combine it all into a group activity at the end of the unit. The students feel a real sense of accomplishment and generate the skills and knowledge required in the workforce.

“From a computerised glasshouse, landscape design studios, billabong, full size cricket pitch and 25 acres of landscaped grounds that provide living classrooms, TAFE NSW Ryde really has everything students need to practice their horticultural skills before they enter the workforce.”

Ms Bowman’s advice to others who are considering a career change is: Do it.

“Changing careers is much more common than many people realise. Going back to the beginning was daunting at first, but I was able to bring some transferrable skills that gave me a head start, along with determination and bravery.

“I’ve learnt that I don’t need to do the same thing for the rest of my life, and that it’s good to mix things up, to challenge myself with new adventures. I’ve found horticulture to be an incredible and rewarding career with many avenues. There’s always more to learn in horticulture and gardeners are generally very happy to share their knowledge and passions with others.”

Members of the Ryde community can explore Horticulture courses and career options by registering to attend an information session as part of TAFE NSW InfoFest between 24 – 28 June via

TAFE NSW offers more than 1,200 courses, from certificates to degrees. Many can be studied online, when and where it suits students, via TAFE Digital. Visit or call 131 601.

Media contact: Emma Cawley, TAFE NSW Media Officer, mobile: 0412 478 415 or