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Living up to her last name

For teacher Cassy Baker, baking has always held a special place in her heart, and the opportunity to pass on her skills was too good to pass up.

Bakery teacher Cassy Baker’s love for baking was handed down to her by her grandmother. And it was in high school she decided to take her home cooking skills to the next level by pursuing a career as a chef.

After completing her studies in professional cookery and pastry, and finally an apprenticeship in baking with TAFE Queensland, Cassy stepped into the industry and never looked back. After receiving a Queensland Overseas Foundation Scholarship, Cassy left her role in Brisbane before moving to London for two years to work.

Years later, she found herself as head pastry chef for Brisbane's favourite, Jocelyn’s Provisions, then opened her own business before moving into her next career challenge: teaching her trade.

Her desire to pass on the skills she’d spent years to earn came as no surprise to Cassy, or her parents.

“My connection to TAFE began before I was born: My Dad attended Central Technical College – a precursor to TAFE – from 1958 to 1964 while undertaking his apprenticeship training as an electrical fitter and mechanic to become a qualified electrician.”

“This gave him a very rewarding career. In later years he went back many times, completing an Electrical Contractor’s Business Course at Yeronga, an Industrial Electronics as well as a Gas Fitting course at Eagle Farm and CFC refrigeration course at Logan, keeping his skills up to date.”

“And I jokingly call my mum a ‘total TAFE tragic’ as throughout her life she’s completed many TAFE courses for self-improvement including a three-year part-time Drafting and Dressmaking course, and a four-year part-time Library Technician course, while working at the Mt Gravatt campus library. This course gave her a year’s credit towards her Bachelor of Arts, Library and Information Science degree, which then led to her job, before retiring, as Campus Librarian at the Mt Gravatt.”

“Mum is so passionate about the value of TAFE courses, maintaining that TAFE was not a substitute for people unable to get into university, but a very valid pathway for vocational training and constantly points out the number of uni graduates (e.g. in Engineering) who would do courses at TAFE to gain practical experience.”

And so, in 2013, Cassy jumped at the opportunity to join the patisserie and bakery team at TAFE Queensland.

“In 2014 I took on a full-time role as a workplace training officer, which saw me travelling all around Queensland to visit apprentices. I absolutely loved going out to see the students and visiting the many, very different kitchens around the state,” she says.

Then, after some encouragement from her colleagues, Cassy was able to complete her Bachelor of Training in 2015. Her hard work paid off and she received a Queensland Overseas Foundation bursary to use towards international professional development as a VET teacher.

“I got to go over to France and visit a trade show and take part in some workshops. It was amazing. To say TAFE has provided me with just a great job would be a huge understatement.”

“I love that I’ve been encouraged to further my education, including enrolling at UTAS for units in Foundation of Applied Learning. I’ve been given so many opportunities in many diverse roles here, including Senior Teacher Patisserie and Bakery at TAFE Queensland Brisbane region.”

Cassy’s hard work and determination to continue to pass on her skills to the next generation is evident to many – she was recently awarded the Australian Trainer of the Year Award for Patisserie Teacher.

“Every day I say to myself, ‘I’m so lucky to have this job’. It’s so much fun. I mean how can you complain about going into class and saying, ‘we’re making Choux pastry today!’”

“The reward is instant and fresh; I just love that I get to see my students rise to the challenge.”

One of Cassy’s proudest moments was having the privilege to take 13 students on a study tour to Switzerland.

“For a week and a half, we exchanged with students from a hospitality school Lausanne, Switzerland and the whole experience was just incredible. As part of the trip, we got to visit a small chocolate factory – my other passion!”

“But really the most amazing part was seeing the benefits for the students being able to experience that. Even though it was short, I think it was good for them. And it was good for me too, I learned a lot.”

Like her parents, Cassy proudly calls herself a product of the TAFE system: “To me, TAFE means opportunity – opportunity towards personal, ongoing learning; opportunity to allow my commitment and passion for the baking and food industry to be passed on to students to help them develop a fulfilling career.”

“TAFE is the best conduit to allow you to turn your dreams for a rewarding career into a reality. I believe I am proof of that dream.”