Career tree-changer wins top Vocational award

Monday, 14 July 2008

A former office worker, with a desire to save our native bushland, has won Challenger TAFE’s top vocational award.

White Gum Valley resident, Bel Catcheside, studied Conservation and Land Management at Challenger TAFE’s Murdoch Campus after spending eight years working in administration and finance.

“I’ve always had a passion for saving our native bushland, but having an office job makes it’s pretty hard to have a real impact, so I decided on a career ‘tree-change’ where I swapped a city job for work in the bush,” she explained.

Bel initially started training part-time at another TAFE Campus, whilst also working part-time in administration at the Department of Environment (DEC). However, the more she learnt about the industry, the more she realised she needed to commit to full-time training, so she enrolled at Challenger TAFE’s Murdoch Campus – the only College offering the Certificate IV and Diploma full-time.”

Bel credits the hands-on training she received at Challenger TAFE with giving her the boost she needed to be selected into DEC’s “Graduate Recruit Development Program”.

“Challenger TAFE’s training is very highly-regarded in the industry, because it gives you the skills and knowledge needed to work in the field,” she said.

“I can’t praise the Global Information System (GIS) unit highly enough – I wouldn’t have known where to start if that hadn’t been included in my training. A high component of my work as a Nature Conservation Officer uses GIS for marking out points in the bush via satellites and taking down coordinates for tasks such as a weed-mapping.”

Bel is based in Busselton over the next two years whilst she undertakes DEC’s “Future Leaders” initiative that includes intensive competency-based training in field operations procedures, team leadership and four-wheel driving.

“My first day on the job was really interesting, as we had a whale stranding called in at a remote area,” Bel explained.

“Me and a colleague went down to find the whale and unfortunately discovered it was already deceased. However, we still needed to record data, as this information is valuable to other agencies monitoring wildlife behaviour patterns, determining the cause of death and as a reference for future research,” she said.

“We actually discovered that this whale was a really rare species, of which only ten have been reported as beached in the past.”

Bel is clearly revelling in her new bush-based career and is thoroughly excited at the vast range of career opportunities open to her since she has re-trained. Her long-term aim is to become a National Park Ranger with DEC and be posted to a remote coastal location where she can engage in further research of the local environment.

“I love working in a role that is field-based and combined with follow up research and assembling data,” she said.

“I’m really keen to pursue work across the state, so I can explore all the different regions and get a better understanding of how DEC fits into the big picture of conservation and environment management.”

Bel is thrilled to be recognised with the College’s top vocational award that is sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Applecross and Fremantle and says it is a fantastic incentive for students to aim towards.

“It’s truly wonderful to have my passion and dedication to the conservation and land management industry acknowledged with this award, and it’s definitely spurred me on to work even harder towards achieving my goals,” she said.

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