Award-winning plumber, traveller and reality TV show contestant – Aimee Stanton's exciting life began with a TAFE apprenticeship.
But before she turned her life around, Aimee says she didn't see much of a future for herself.
The Lost Red Wiggle
'When people asked me what I wanted to be when I was out of school or what I wanted to study, I would reply with "I want to be the red wiggle in the TV show The Wiggles!"' she jokes.
Aimee's attitude did not suit her academic-focused school at the time. She became disinterested in her education and more interested in causing trouble.
'I have always been a bit of a visual spatial learner, and I think because of this, I didn't fit into my school very well,' Aimee says.
'I was isolated and just always pictured my education in a bad light.'
'Even little things like having to be in English 2 (Remedial English) made me feel like I was different to my peers, especially the ones that wanted to go on and become lawyers and doctors and accountants - not even one of them wanted to be the Red Wiggle!'
Then her troublemaking antics finally got her expelled from school.
A second chance at Box Hill Senior Secondary College
Aimee then enrolled at Box Hill Senior Secondary College to finish her education. BHSSC's relaxed atmosphere – friendly teachers and no uniforms – made Aimee love school again.
'It made me feel for the first time in a while I had choice,' Aimee says.
'The idea of going to a school where they focus on your future career excited me, and made me grow to love the education system.'
Aimee thrived in her new school and even became a school leader.
When Aimee helped her Dad, a builder, over the school holidays, she had a breakthrough.
'Bam, hot diggity!' Aimee says. 'This is what I want to do! I want to be a tradie!'
So she enrolled in a Certificate II in Plumbing at Swinburne TAFE in Croydon.
Plumbing her way to the top
Being the only woman in her TAFE course was hard, but Aimee stayed strong.
'I don't want to be treated differently because I was a girl - I wanted to do everything and anything,' Aimee says.
'It made me feel as though I had to prove myself. That makes you try a lot harder so the guys actually respect you - so they think "this girl's alright, she can actually plumb.'"
Aimee says practical learning and the facilities at her TAFE, like welding bays and sandpits for digging trenches, prepared her for work.
'When people think about education, they think of sitting in a classroom,' Aimee says.
'At TAFE, you're learning every day and you can go off and do all these practical things.'
Aimee moved on to complete her Certificate III in Plumbing at Swinburne TAFE, which led to her first job as a roof plumber. After some mishaps like falling through a roof, getting her head stuck in a scaffold and accidentally crashing through a fence, Aimee set her sights on Mechanical Plumbing.
She sent 140 job applications and heard back from only one. Luckily, it was from one of the most renowned plumbing companies in Australia.
'I was stoked!' Aimee says. 'I loved my workplace. I got along with every single person.'
Aimee had finally found her calling in life. 'I honestly just like plumbing – I think it's great,' she says.
Her new job required her to switch TAFEs, so she continued her Certificate III by transferring to Holmesglen TAFE.
When she was a fourth year apprentice, Aimee won the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association (ACMCA) President's Award and Best Female Apprentice in her class at Holmesglen TAFE.
To TAFE and beyond
Today, Aimee is a different person. 'My whole perspective of life changed,' she says.
Aimee says she now realises that other young people today have similar struggles to her own.
'I'm planning to go out to schools and help the kids with life skills – the things no one teaches you, and the things you're too afraid to ask,' Aimee says.
'I don't think kids realise how many opportunities are out there – and with TAFE, you can explore all those opportunities.'
'You don't just have to go to uni and get a job – there's so many different things you can do.'
Aimee encourages young people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
'Life is short, so learn as much as you can and explore as wide as you can!'
Whether you're leaving school or considering a career change, TAFE can take you there.