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Graduate goes from barista to master with TAFE NSW

TAFE NSW St Leonards

Graduate goes from barista to master with TAFE NSW

With HSC results set to be announced this coming Thursday, a TAFE NSW graduate is urging young people to consider an alternate path to their dream career if they don’t get the ATAR they were hoping for.

According to a report by the National Skills Commission[1], people with post school qualifications generally have better employment outcomes than those who have not completed further education after leaving school. 

In 2019, the median weekly earnings for an employee with a certificate III or IV was $1150 while the medium weekly earnings for an employee with no post-school qualification was $820.

Cameron Wood had a troubled schooling experience and dropped out of school prior to year 12. He began working in a café but in time developed a strong desire for a career that was more mentally and intellectually stimulating.

“I was twenty and worked as a barista at cafes in the Central Business District of Sydney. It wasn't bad work; I just didn't see a future in it,” Cameron said.

“I started applying for what I dubbed "office jobs". I didn't know what to apply for; I knew I wanted full-time work that would engage my mind.

“It only took a handful of job applications for me to realise that I'd need a Higher School Certificate (HSC) to get an office job. I saw jobs that I thought I'd learn and do well, yet all I received was the dreaded rejection letter.”

At that time, Cameron was also made redundant from his job at the café but vowed to complete his schooling and used his redundancy payment to enrol in the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (TPC) at TAFE NSW St Leonards. 

TAFE NSW offers two ways to complete a Year 12 equivalent. The HSC at TAFE NSW can be undertaken at any time as an alternative to the HSC at school. The course takes place over two years and students graduate with an ATAR.

The TPC is aimed at providing students of all ages with an alternate option for completing year 12 and gaining a recognised Tertiary Entry Score accepted by the University Admissions Centre. Graduates can go on to pursue higher education, enter the defence force or pursue further vocational education and training.

TAFE NSW Educational Pathways teacher Melissa Knudson said the TPC is first and foremost an academic course, teaching students how to learn, how to reason and how to research, in preparation for further tertiary or university studies. 

“The TPC is perfect for anyone who had an incomplete schooling experience, or wants to further their tertiary education or employment prospects,” Ms Knudson said.

“The TPC not only gives students practical skills in researching and writing essays, and a recognised Tertiary Entry Score, it gives them increased confidence in their abilities and sets up a strong educational foundation that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”  

Cameron aced his TPC, achieving a result of 98/100 and has since gone on to complete a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Research at Macquarie University. He is urging anyone who struggled with school but has ambitions to complete year 12 or pursue higher education to consider the TPC at TAFE NSW.

“The TPC at TAFE NSW was the beginning of an incredibly fruitful learning experience. I wouldn't have gone on to do my Bachelor or Arts and then attain a scholarship for further Masters of Research study if it wasn't for my study at TAFE,” Cameron said.

To learn more about Tertiary Preparation Study and employability pathways available at TAFE NSW head to or phone 131 601.   

Media contact: Alice Dalley, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, mobile 0402 528 210.