Billy begins a blooming career
After a decade in the Australian Army, Billy Caton has swapped his fatigues for floristry to become a flower farmer.
In the army, Billy would help communities recover from flood, fire, and Covid, but injuries forced his career change, and now he's doing something to bring him back to nature.
"The army is physically demanding, and my injuries meant I couldn't keep up with the high-tempo workplace," explained Billy.
"Then, when a friend of mine passed away, I grounded myself by growing flowers, herbs and vegetables. I couldn't be upset when surrounded by nature, so I decided to make it my profession."
Needing to balance his studies and family commitments, he searched for a course close to home, bringing him to TAFE Queensland's South Bank campus to study the Certificate III in Floristry (SFL30115).
"I needed something slower paced because I've been going 110% for the last ten years. The floristry course had the right class size and a commitment of two-and-a-half days a week, which would keep me busy without being overwhelmed."
"The South Bank campus is also close to public transport and hospitality, so it's easy for me to get to, and it's a great location if I need to unwind after classes."
Understandably, Billy had no idea about floristry at the beginning of the course, as sketching and creating hand-tied, wired, or base-set bouquets and hampers are as far as you can get from the army.
But helping him to learn his new craft are his teachers and classmates, who are all supporting him to find his feet in his new profession.
"My teachers have made my transition from military to civilian life much easier. There's a lot of admin involved when leaving the army, and I've had to miss some lessons to attend appointments, but my teachers have helped catch me up."
"Also helping are my classmates – we all come from different backgrounds and bring different experiences to the class, similar to the army. We encourage each other, and our teachers give us tips and pointers while we're working on our assignments, which is great," he said.
"Studying has been a good challenge, and I love working with my hands and learning new skills - I would have never thought about learning this before."
Studying floristry has brought Billy's creativity to the surface, which has seen him design creations that represent his personality.
"While everyone was designing hampers full of beauty products, I designed a hamper filled with cognac, beer and rum – and flowers. It was a great assignment to showcase my personality."
Billy's ultimate career goal is to finish his floristry course, study the Certificate III in Horticulture (AHC30716) with TAFE Queensland, and eventually start a business working the land.
"I'm doing something good that's keeping me on track and setting me up to study horticulture next year. My longtime goal is to buy a property and start a sustainable flower farm where I can grow and sell different varieties of flowers," he explained.
Billy is blown away by how his skills and confidence are progressing, thanks to the course's balance of theory and hands-on delivery. He recommends that anyone considering a career revolution shouldn't waste time and go for it.
"If you're already thinking about changing careers, start looking for your next challenge. TAFE Queensland is unreal, there's a lot of help here, and everyone wants you to succeed. The teaching is on point, and you'll learn so much from different people."
"Before starting, I knew nothing about floristry as it's the polar opposite of being a soldier. But here I am, learning something new and different each day, and my new skills are easy to retain."
"The more I study, the more I enjoy it because I can see what's achievable. It's not as difficult as I first thought, and while there are challenges, I'm always up for a challenge," concluded Billy.