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GREY MATTERS: TAFE NSW helps John take the high road in unlikely career switch


GREY MATTERS: TAFE NSW helps John take the high road in unlikely career switch

BACK IN CONTROL: Howlong's John Harrison has reinvented himself as a traffic controller, thanks to TAFE NSW, and couldn't be happier with his career switch.

14 September, 2020

A man in his 60s who found himself suddenly jobless after a successful and varied career has thanked TAFE NSW Corowa for helping him reinvent himself – as a traffic controller.

John Harrison, 63, has been an inventor, business owner, real estate agent, and even a private eye but despite more than 50 job applications and a host of interviews over the past 12 months, couldn’t land a job.

Fearing he may never work again, Mr Harrison took a leap of faith and enrolled in a Statement of Attainment in Control Traffic and Implement Traffic Control Plans at TAFE NSW Corowa and soon after secured a job with Riverina Traffic Services.

“I didn’t want to stay on the dole but I kept getting knocked back from jobs because I was deemed too old,” Mr Harrison said. “TAFE NSW has been a real lifeline.”

He is now employed as a traffic controller on the Border and can earn up to $500 for a 12-hour night shift.

“Ageism is very real in the workplace and this job hasn’t just allowed me to earn money but to get my dignity back,” he said. “The TAFE NSW course was delivered by teachers who work in the field, it wasn’t just textbook stuff.

“You even go out and do a real simulation as a traffic controller on the streets.”

Research shows people over the age of 65 in Australia are the single fastest-growing age group securing work, up by 11 per cent over the past 12 months alone.

Mr Harrison said the outdoor work, low stress and relatively good pay made the job appealing.

“To be able to get out of the house and bring some money is makes a huge difference to your mental health,” he said. “My advice to older job seekers would be to keep an open mind and check out how TAFE NSW can give you the skills to change careers.”

He said the job had allowed him to further develop his patented Safetank invention, a combination of fresh water-grey water tank for caravans.

TAFE NSW Civil Construction teacher Greg Walsh said traffic control courses ran monthly at a campus in the Border region.

The course included two days of theoretical training,three days of on-the-job training followed by a final assessment.

“In many ways, traffic control is recession-proof,” Mr Walsh said. “Civil construction hasn’t slowed down and councils are still doing their road maintenance.

“It’s a job where the outdoors is your office and you meet a lot of interesting people.”

To find out more about studying traffic control at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.