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Navy chef sets new course to events career with TAFE NSW 


Navy chef sets new course to events career with TAFE NSW 

TAFE NSW is playing a key role in ensuring a pipeline of skilled workers to an industry forecast to grow significantly over the next three years. 

According to Jobs and Skills Australia, the conference and events sector will grow by close to 11% by 2026. 

Marrickville’s Emily Churchyard is a Certificate III in Events graduate and winner of TAFE Digital Tourism and Experience Services Student of the Year at the 2023 TAFE NSW Excellence Awards. She said the pandemic made her re-evaluate her Defence career. 

“I left school in year 10 to train as a pastry chef where I worked in hotels. I wanted a bit more job stability, so I followed my dad into the Navy, where I worked as a chef for nearly five years. 

“When Covid hit, I found myself searching for a new career path that combined my hospitality skills with something new, and that’s when I found the Certificate III in events through TAFE NSW.

“In the Navy, I would be away sea for weeks with only 48 hours-notice, so I chose TAFE Digital because it allowed me the flexibility and security of continuing full-time work while I studied. I would download all my assessments and be working away in the mess after hours while we were at sea.  

While the pandemic threw many people’s lives into chaos, Emily, 24, thrived on the routine of lockdowns for studying. 

“Lockdown gave me the freedom to do my TAFE NSW course at my own pace. I was at home anyway and I wanted to use that time productively. I had my routine, my daytime PJs, my cup of tea and focus music – I had a nice routine going. I’ve always been like that,” Emily said.

TAFE NSW Travel, Tourism and Events teacher, Nicola Trapski, said TAFE NSW graduates are in-demand within the events sector. 

“There have been massive changes coming out of Covid for our industry – it’s pushed things forward in many ways. TAFE NSW plays a critical role in providing our students with the qualifications, current skills, and confidence they need to lead the conference and events industry into the future.”

Since graduating, Emily works as a National Events Coordinator for international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, after starting there as a student.

“Thanks to TAFE NSW, I am in my dream job. The work-life balance I have now is incredible and I’ve never felt this happy in my life. I worked on a key annual event at the Art Gallery of NSW during the Archibald Prize exhibition earlier this year, which was exciting. I’m learning something new every day,” she said.

On winning the award TAFE Digital Tourism and Experience Services Student of the Year, Emily said she felt proud. 

“I never stopped to recognise my big career transition, so winning the TAFE NSW Excellence award made it nice to feel like all my hard work had been seen.

“I’m now halfway through my Diploma of Events with TAFE Digital to continue to build my knowledge and take my career to the next level,” Emily said. 


Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7921 3756.