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Jenni’s career comes full circle

Within months of starting an apprenticeship, Jenni Butler knew that a career with TAFE Queensland was her calling. 

Now, with 27 years of experience in varying roles at TAFE Queensland, Jenni is continuing to support students to change their lives, recently taking on the role of General Manager of the South West region.

“I commenced my apprenticeship in 1988 with Stefan Hair Fashions, and undertook my training at Kangaroo Point TAFE campus. I loathed school, and this was reflected in my Year 12 results. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the academic work, I was just uninspired in a school setting. I saw an ad for apprenticeships with Stefan and remember thinking, ‘well, why not give it a go and see what happens’?” Jenni said.

“As soon as I started my training at TAFE, it was then that I knew I would love to be able to do what these people were doing for me – sharing their knowledge and skills. I distinctly remember in my third year at TAFE having to do an assessment that required students to undertake research of a product, develop materials and then do a verbal presentation. I recall the teacher saying, ‘Jenni you should consider being a TAFE teacher’ and it was a life-defining moment for me.”

While working as a hairdresser, Jenni enrolled in a training program and joined the TAFE Queensland team as a tutor in 1996.

“I subsequently purchased my own salon in 1997, Delilah’s, which was in Toowoomba. I worked full-time at TAFE Queensland during this period whilst also working in my salon part-time, ensuring I maintained my industry currency,” Jenni explained.

The years at TAFE Queensland have passed quickly for Jenni, who progressed from tutor to teacher, to Leading Vocational Teacher, and then to Educational Manager. The latter seeing Jenni responsible for three different faculties during her tenure – Manufacturing, Natural Resources, and Communities and Personal Services.

Jenni has also taken on director roles from Faculty to then Executive Director of Studies, and now as Acting General Manager at TAFE Queensland South West region.

In these most recent two roles, she has been committed to encouraging industry experts to become TAFE Queensland teachers – through the Foundation Educator Program.

“I’m just so thrilled with what I get to do each week. One thing I love to do is take career starters, upskillers and career changers on tours of our facilities. They’re always so surprised how well-equipped we are to be able to provide them with real-world experiences in fully operational hairdressing and beauty salons, hospitality kitchens and function venues, which make them ready to step into a job. That, and the depth of knowledge and experience of our educators and their strong links to their industry, with many still working in the sector.”

“And recruiting the latter – converting these industry experts into TAFE Queensland teachers via the Foundation Educator Program – where they get paid while they learn to teach with us – this program we developed is attracting the best in the business.”

“Those who are truly passionate about their industry – have years of experience, and genuinely want to share their knowledge with the next generation. It’s a one-year commitment with pay and a mentored, hands-on, learning curve. We are so delighted with the immense talent we’re recruiting and training, and I am thrilled that I am able to play a part in those life-changing moments just like my teacher did for me all those years ago.”

The Foundation Educator Program creates a new talent pipeline entry point where within 12 months, new recruits can complete their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) through TAFE Queensland (fully funded), practise their skills in a supervised environment, and be provided with mentoring from other experienced teachers. 

And, at the completion of their training, Foundation Educators can then transition to teaching or tutoring positions with TAFE Queensland.