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Teachers worth recognising this World Teachers' Day

Derek Athanassiou is one of the many TAFE Queensland teachers worth recognising this World Teachers' Day.

Derek Athanassiou had a long and decorated career in the automation industry before joining TAFE Queensland as a teacher of the Certificate II in Autonomous Technologies (10935NAT) program, currently in its pilot phase being taught to a select group of Queensland high school students.

The course is part of the Queensland Future Skills Partnership, an initiative which won the Premier's Industry Collaboration Award at the Queensland Training Awards in September 2022.  Derek delivers the pilot to two high school cohorts in Brisbane, drawing on his immense industry experience to provide the students with a leg up on their competition when looking for a career after school.

Derek said the course is a great addition to a young career-starter’s resume, “it certainly gives them a good footing to start a number of different trades,” he said, “as an employer, if I saw an applicant with the automation experience already it would put them in good stead for a role because they have skills already and can slot into the workforce.”

Like most TAFE Queensland teachers, Derek had a long and successful career in his chosen industry before he considered taking up a teaching role and he feels this gives him a credibility to his students and gains him their respect.

“I’ve been involved in automation basically since leaving high school. I did an apprenticeship in instrumentation which was the foundation for an automation career as they work hand-in-hand,” Derek said.

“My latest employment was at Rockwell Automation where I worked for 10 years, Rockwell is a large automation company from America that spans 80 countries with more than 25,000 employees. I’ve done a lot of work in mining in Queensland with Rockwell but also in the food and beverage industry,” he said.

Not only a subject expert on automation, Derek also joined TAFE Queensland with experience training existing workers in automation skills, “I had an aspect of training delivery in my previous employment which I really enjoyed. I did quite a bit of training at Rockwell, presenting training around Australia.”

Derek did notice a difference in teaching the younger students at TAFE Queensland, but rising to that challenge has proved to be one of the most enjoyable parts of his new role, “it’s been challenging in the teaching aspect with young students given I’m used to workplace training, but I’ve enjoyed that challenge,” he said.

Derek says teaching at TAFE Queensland has been a collaborative experience, with his teaching team across the state catching up regularly to brainstorm and work through challenges together, “we have a fortnightly official meeting with the teaching team to chat about progress et cetera, and we also have an informal meeting on the alternative fortnight to have a looser discussion and help each other out with any issues.”

Derek is just one of many TAFE Queensland teachers worth recognising this World Teachers’ Day, and is an example of the typical TAFE Queensland teacher who is well connected and experienced within their industry and enjoys the challenge of giving back to the training of the next generation of the workforce.