Seeking a change from her job in pharmacy, Kerrilyn Bassett looked around for something else to do. She landed a job as a farm labourer - and that's when her dream career began.
'I literally stumbled into farm work as something completely different to do from my work in the chemist,' Kerrilyn says. 'I had never experienced farm life before but as it turned out I loved it. So the next step was to get some qualifications in the field.'
Kerrilyn studied a Certificate III in Agriculture at Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE (GOTAFE) and soon distinguished herself as a standout student, winning the GOTAFE Agriculture and Shepparton campus Student of the Year.
'I was really keen to learn and probably drove the teachers mad because I asked so many questions — but I must have impressed them too as I won the GOTAFE award and was then nominated for the Victorian Training Awards' 2015 Trainee of the Year,' Kerrilyn says.
What it means to win
Kerrilyn won her VTA category, and credits the award for opening many doors.
'Winning the award was the start of a really good journey,' she says. 'It boosted my confidence and opened up many opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.'
'I met industry leaders, was invited to lots of events and was selected to go to New Zealand on a study tour.'
'Another bonus was that I became a representative for the industry—that was important because it provided the opportunity for a young female voice to be heard in an industry which traditionally has an older profile and tends to be male dominated.'
Kerrilyn now works at Peppertree Dairy Farm in Kyabram, northern Victoria. Kerrilyn says her role involves everything from milking cows, rearing calves, growing crops, riding tractors and doing fencing and repairs.
'It's very diversified and I love being involved in all the different aspects of the farm. I've come a long way from my labouring days when I was just doing what I was told — now I'm involved in and influencing lots of decisions on the farm and that's really gratifying.'
'Looking to the future, I think it's really important to keep learning and to this end I plan to do an Advanced Diploma so I can learn more of the business side. Who knows, it's not too much of a stretch for me to dream about taking over a farm one day and being my own boss. It doesn't hurt to think big and that's what I intend to do.'
Good news for anyone thinking of following in Kerrilyn's footsteps is that the Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production) is one of the 30 courses announced as part of the Free TAFE initiative for enrolments starting in January 2019.
TAFE institutes - including universities that offer TAFE courses - across Victoria are taking enrolments now.
For more information about the courses available, eligibility requirements and to make an enquiry, see the Free TAFE website.