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Engineering apprenticeship supports Indigenous learning

Jeremy Keevers, a proud Bundjalung man, is excited to have finally found his passion in an apprenticeship that not only has great career opportunities, but also contributes to important educational and medical work for Indigenous Australians.

After successfully completing a Certificate II in Engineering Pathways (MEM20413) at TAFE Queensland, Jeremy was successful in obtaining an engineering apprenticeship at the Translational Research Institute next to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

He now works within the Australian Centre for Complex Integrated Surgical Solutions (ACCISS) using innovative 3D-printing to create replica kidney models used to educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about kidney transplants.

In his role Jeremy prepares coloured replica models to be used in PA Hospital’s Outreach Renal Transplant Workshops which service remote areas of Queensland. In conjunction with the National Indigenous Kidney Transplant Taskforce, the models are assisting the travelling team to educate potential transplant recipients and increase awareness about kidney disease.

“I am definitely enjoying the role so far, I get on the bus to come to work and I don’t even think about it as a job. It’s more getting up in the morning to go do your hobby,” said Jeremy.

“I feel pretty proud to be honest. My family think it’s amazing and they’re very supportive of the work I’m involved in,” he said.

After completing high school in 2015, Jeremy worked at a powder coating company and other odd jobs but had dreams of securing an apprenticeship. After his work dried up and the COVID-19 pandemic took effect he decided to enrol in a TAFE Queensland pre-vocational course which teaches students the basic skills needed to secure an apprenticeship.

Jeremy was also able to access the Queensland Government’s JobTrainer subsidy which provided him with fee-free training and essentially enabled him to be able to complete the course at the time.

“I wouldn’t have been able to complete the course without the JobTrainer subsidy. It was a massive help because I didn’t have any other source of income apart from the government subsidies I was receiving," he explained.

Jeremy said that how students do in the pre-vocational course really depends on them.

“If you treat it like a joke then you’re not going to be able to get a job because TAFE works directly with employers. So I treated the course as if it was my job and I just tried my best to do really well at it,” he said.

Having become aware of Jeremy’s enthusiasm and professional approach to his studies, both TAFE Queensland Engineering Business Manager, Kevin Roos and Student Services Team Employment Outcomes Officer, Kellie Richardson referred him for the apprenticeship position at the Princess Alexandra hospital which was specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants.

“Kellie Richardson was very helpful. She is the one that brought the actual opportunity up with me and helped me apply for it. She helped me through the whole process and guided me when I wasn’t sure what to do,” Jeremy said.

“She’s been in very close contact with me and a really big helping hand. After I got my apprenticeship I know I can still call her if I have questions about my TAFE training which is great,” he said.

Jeremy’s manager, Doctor Michael Wagels, is a Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Metro North Health and Metro South Health. Dr Wagels said that Jeremy is an outstanding colleague.

“He was a perfect fit for our workplace and we are so pleased to have him working at ACCISS. He has an eye for detail and seems inspired by the types of clinical problems that we deal with here. He relishes the clinical challenges we are presented each day,” Dr Wagels said.

“It warms my heart to see someone young who is driven not only to do things well but to do them for a noble purpose, the benefit of a patient who needs our help.”

Jeremy’s apprenticeship is also supported by the Queensland Government’s ‘Free TAFE for Under 25s’ funding initiative – an initiative which means training is now more affordable than ever for eligible Queenslanders who can now complete selected qualifications for free or low cost across a range of high priority training areas including construction, electrotechnology, engineering, childcare, nursing and health.

Jeremy is now looking forward to completing his engineering apprenticeship, which will be fast tracked due to the credits he received from his pre-vocational course. He also has aspirations to further his studies and is considering possible university pathways.

“For now I am just focused on finishing my apprenticeship but after that I was thinking about going to university and studying medical engineering as I do believe that every hospital should have facility like the one we have at the Princess Alexandra Hospital,” Jeremy said.