Challenger TAFE’s top trainee is jumping for joy

Monday, 14 July 2008

A university graduate with dual passions for horticulture and acrobatics has been awarded Challenger TAFE’s top trainee award.

Since graduating with a degree in Sociology ten years ago, Bull Creek resident, Leolie Rentsch tried a wide variety of training options including primary ambulance care and circus acrobatics before deciding to pursue training in General Horticulture at Challenger TAFE.

“When I did my university degree I was considering a career in welfare work, but by the time I finished I felt I was still too ‘green’ to enter that industry, so I tried to get more life experience and undertook a wide variety of short courses between then and now,” she explained.

“Just returning to full-time study was an interesting experience, as I never saw completing my BA in Sociology as the end of my education.”

On starting her training at Challenger TAFE’s Murdoch Campus, Leolie says it was obvious she was learning relevant skills that would help her pursue a satisfying new career.

“I couldn’t imagine not coming to TAFE once I set my heart on pursuing a career in Horticulture as I found the hands-on aspect of the training to be a real advantage compared to my university studies,” she continued.

“The affordability also attracted me as I still have a HECS debt from my uni degree, and the course also gave me the flexibility to be able to work and study at the same time.”

Leolie credits the quality of lecturers and the extra support offered as a significant and powerful difference between university and TAFE.

“Being taught by lecturers who are really passionate about their field and readily available for talking through problems made a real difference to being successful in my training,” she explained.

As part of her training, Leolie learnt industry-relevant skills in identifying plants and weeds, and integrated pest management.

“Pruning, plant identification and Occupational Health and Safety – especially traffic management, have proved especially useful since I’ve started working,” she continued.

Leolie is currently employed as a Streetscape Maintainer at the City of Melville where she is responsible for the care and maintenance of all verge gardens, median trees and roundabout gardens. She also works with the architect in the planning and refurbishment of older gardens.

During the course of her traineeship Leolie also completed a course in Permaculture Design with Dr Ross Mars, so she could learn about waterwise gardening, the use of natives, alternative pest and disease control and general sustainability in relation to horticulture and the natural environment.

“I’m really keen to get involved in designing environmentally-friendly gardens, using both the skills and knowledge I have gained from my Horticulture and Permacultural Design training,” she said.

“Environmental issues are an enormous concern to the horticulture industry. We are facing severe water restrictions, and as a result, trends and developments such as waterwise gardening including drip irrigation systems, the use of greywater, catchment of rain water, the use of native plants, mulches, extensive tree planting like carbon trading, are becoming more and more widespread and popular.”

Leolie’s passion for implementing integrated pest management systems rather than chemical applications is something she hopes to achieve as her career progresses.

“I’ve always been into environmental issues and since gardening is often a pursuit that alters the natural environment, I’m keen to learn how to do this in less disruptive and more harmonious ways,” she explained.

“I’ve recently been observing how steam technology is being used by some organisations in controlling weeds, as I think there’s an unacceptably high use of herbicides in the general environment. In some areas, herbicides can be replaced with less damaging and cheaper methods, which are both safer for the user and general public.”

Though Leolie probably won’t have any opportunities to use her acrobatic skills in her new career, she is still somersaulting for joy at being awarded the College’s top trainee award.

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