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Laying the foundation to become a teacher

Leaving behind a four-decade-long career in IT to learn more about her passion in building and design unlocked a new pathway for Elaine Silver who is now a proud teacher at TAFE Queensland.

For Elaine Silver, building design was an "itch she had to scratch".

With an illustrious career spanning 40 years in IT project management, with high profile clients including IBM, Optus and Colonial State bank, in 2017 Elaine decided it was time to "scratch" and enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Building Design at Swinburne University.

By mid 2019, the itch was well and truly soothed, and after working as a tutor and draftsperson during her studies, Elaine made the move to Queensland, joined Building Design Queensland and saw an ad on their careers pages for TAFE Queensland's Foundation Educator Program.

The rest, as they say is history, with Elaine now employed as a qualified TAFE Queensland Teacher of Building and Interior Design.

“I had been tutoring students during and after my course of study and had also mentored young women through an IT professional network for several years, so I felt I would have the qualities and knowledge to be able to do the role – and teaching is something I’ve always enjoyed."

“The faculty were specifically looking for someone with ‘Revit’ skills to teach this part of the course, and I love this 3D modelling package, as learning it re-wired my largely 2D brain,” Elaine explained.

TAFE Queensland’s Foundation Educator Program sees industry experts employed and paid as a Foundation Educator while completing their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) through TAFE Queensland, with the latter being fully funded, if completed within 12 months.

It was designed and developed by TAFE Queensland to attract passionate industry experts and convert them into the highest quality teachers and tutors, promptly – in direct response to Vocational Education and Training recruitment challenges identified within a new research paper from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

“The whole Building Design team was incredibly welcoming and supportive, helping us newbies with all the particulars of the teaching role and the supporting admin that goes with it. My first mentor and the shadowing part taught me so much about pacing, how to explain the intricacies of Revit to the students, and how much preparation is involved in making sure the students have a great experience,” Elaine shared.

“I also secured a part-time role as a drafter, as it’s important to maintain industry skills. This will also enable me to apply, after at least two years, to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to become a registered Building Designer, whilst remaining a teacher, imparting my 3D modelling skills."

As Foundation Educators progress through each stage of their training qualification, their responsibilities within the classroom increase, under the guidance of the Foundation Educator’s appointed supervisor, who also acts as a mentor, and assesses and confirms the Foundation Educator’s required skills and competencies. And on graduation – they become a teacher with TAFE Queensland. Elaine graduated from the program in November 2022 and is now a full-time teacher.

“I am proud that I am part of an organisation that prepares young people and career changers to be job-ready in their chosen field. I love it when the lightbulbs go off in students’ heads – you hear that ‘Ah, so that’s how it works’ and you know the information has gone across. I get great job satisfaction when the students are successful. Really, that’s the measure of what we do, isn’t it?” reflected Elaine.

So, would Elaine recommend pursuing the Foundation Educator route to others?

“This is a great program with generous conditions around study: the certificate is paid for by TAFE Queensland, and our responsibility is to put in the hours and complete all of the coursework and our assessments,” she said.

“With that said however, best not to underestimate the study workload (which is something we tell our students). The study commitment is around 8-12 hours per week. If you are passionate about your vocation, have high-level industry knowledge to share, and you love the idea of making the next generation job-ready, then give it a go.”