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A passion for plants leads Lizzie to a growing career

After travelling the globe and working in the corporate world, Lizzie Gallagher is now changing careers from the office to the outdoors to create inspiring green spaces as a horticulturalist.

“The pandemic caused a lot of industries to slow down, and like many people, I reassessed my career. When I stepped back and asked myself, ‘what do I love doing?’ the answer was I’m happiest when I’m in nature,” said Lizzie.

“Having started my career in a nursery in Perth and hiking or visiting beautiful gardens in my spare time, I decided to retrain for a career that makes me happy,” she explained.

Her career change began by enquiring to study a horticulture course by attending an information day at TAFE’s Mt Gravatt campus. After meeting with the course teachers, she enrolled to study the Certificate III in Horticulture (AHC30716) at TAFE Queensland's Grovely campus.

“The teachers quizzed me at the information session to determine which course I was suitable for, and everything I’d learnt from working in that nursery years ago came flooding back – so I skipped certificate two and went directly into certificate three. It’s amazing what you remember.”

While returning to tertiary study required commitment, Lizzie found that the course’s balance of theory and practical learning, delivered by highly skilled teachers, was motivating and engaging.

“I was in class four days per week, being taught theory in the morning and applying it in the nursery or landscaping in the afternoon. Because my teachers were industry professionals, they brought incredible knowledge and experience to class. I was able to learn so much in a short space of time.”

The campus specialist facilities include purpose-built learning spaces, a propagation hut, a shade house, a range of equipment and a retail nursery centre, all offering students the perfect environment to absorb knowledge and accelerate their learning.

“Mt Gravatt is a beautiful campus for learning about all things horticulture. From soil testing and identifying suitable plant species for different conditions, growing natives and ornamentals, to landscape maintenance, it’s a wonderful space for hands-on learning,” continued Lizzie.

During her studies, Lizzie applied for a TAFE Queensland Merit Scholarship, which she was awarded for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement. She is now looking forward to using it to study for a Diploma of Horticulture (AHC50416) at TAFE’s Grovely campus.

“Studying the diploma will be a nice progression for my horticulture training. It will allow me to use my client management expertise from my previous career in creative industries to take briefs, design green spaces and select the plant species that will thrive in different environments,” she said.

“It’s so exciting because I’ve always wanted to do this. I had a great career that’s taken me worldwide, but working with plants and landscapes has always been in the back of my mind. Through hikes and visiting beautiful formal gardens throughout Europe and Asia, I’ve always kept my connection with nature, and now it will be my profession.”

As part of her diploma studies, Lizzie will learn to balance her business acumen with a deep understanding of horticulture principles to lead teams within the industry confidently.

The condensed learning from TAFE’s industry experts will ensure Lizzie becomes qualified in 2022, so she can start her new career and eventually start her own business.

“TAFE Queensland has given me the skills to start working in a sustainable sector I’m passionate about.”

Changing careers is a complete revolution, but Lizzie says that anyone considering making such a change will know it’s the right thing to do when the time comes, and success is all down to preparation.

“You need a study structure because the expectation is high, and there’s a reasonably heavy workload, so you need to have organisational skills to stay on top.”

“But the journey is great. For me, it’s been fantastic to learn again and feel that sense of achievement,” concluded Lizzie.