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TAFE NSW taster course builds regional workforce of the future

TAFE NSW Lake Cargelligo

TAFE NSW taster course builds regional workforce of the future

TAFE NSW Metal Fabrication Teacher Craig Cooke with students participating in the RIEP course.

High school students from Lake Cargelligo are gaining practical experience and being matched with local employers as part of an innovative training program at TAFE NSW.

Funded by Training Services NSW, the three-week Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) course involves students in Years 10, 11 and 12 learning metal fabrication and welding two days per week.

Local employers are invited to meet the students on site to provide inspiration, share their knowledge and discuss potential school-based traineeships and apprenticeships for 2022.

“We want to give these high school kids a taste of different trades they could potentially pursue as a career and build their self-esteem,” TAFE NSW Metal Fabrication Teacher Craig Cooke (or ‘Cookie’ as he’s known) said.

“University is not for everyone and our RIEP programs give these kids an inside look at alternative opportunities and pathways for their future.”

During the program, students are creating a totem sculpture representing a ‘googar’ (goanna). The TAFE NSW Lake Cargelligo campus is on Wiradjuri land but the local high school has students from three Aboriginal nations – Nyampaa, Baakindji and Wiradjuri. The students chose the Wiradjuri goanna totem for their project to pay respects to the country on which they are learning.

“It’s really powerful that they wanted to honour Wiradjuri country as a group and I think that reflects the spirit of cooperation these young people bring to the program. They have asked that the sculpture be mounted outside the welding workshop as an ongoing mark of their learning and respect,” TAFE Services Coordinator Narelle Hall said.

“They have all been working through their morning tea break, and they’re teenagers, so that shows how keen they are!” she laughed.

“They bring a great attitude to the table and are eager to learn and build a future for themselves. These taster courses are often the spark that ignites a real passion in these kids.”

Cookie explained that effectively skilling the workforce of the future meant ensuring regional Australia was developing its own skilled workers and making HSC students job-ready with nationally recognised qualifications.

He said creating connections between school students and local employers was also a fundamental goal of the RIEP program.

“It’s a great chance for our local industry professionals to come and see the students at work and get a good read on their attitude and aptitude for different trades. This sets the foundation for future traineeship and apprenticeship opportunities,” Cookie said.

“We have a serious shortage of skills in Australia and I don’t want to see jobs going offshore. I want our people to be filling those skills shortages here locally in our regional communities.”

TAFE NSW offers hundreds of school-based traineeships and apprenticeships so that students can pursue their passion with life-changing training. For more information visit or phone 131 601.

Media contact: Terra Sword, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist.