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Toby bridges his way to an engineering career

Like many people, Toby Hoffmann thought a degree in engineering was out of reach, but thanks to TAFE Queensland, he found a pathway to an engineering career.

“My school results weren't the best - I had good grades but flunked the Queensland Core Skills Test. So, I had a bad overall position and couldn't get into university without taking a bridging course.”

Thinking his university dream was over, Toby instead completed a Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication Trade (Boilermaking/Welding) (MEM31922) with TAFE Queensland and began working as a tradesman.

“I wasn't enjoying working as a boilermaker - it wasn't me. When I told my manager I was having doubts about completing my apprenticeship, he introduced me to the engineers who showed me where boilermaking could lead,” explained Toby.

“He said, ‘If you want to be a good draftsperson or designer, learn the hands-on aspect first,’ so I completed my four-year apprenticeship, fell in love with engineering, and enrolled in a Certificate III in Engineering – Technical (MEM30552).”

Toby learned the specialised technical computer-aided design (CAD) skills he’d need for civil construction and engineering projects to enrol in the Associate Degree in Civil Engineering (HED001).

“TAFE is facilitating a bridge to get me from tradesman to engineer, and the associate's degree has helped me transition smoothly,” explained Toby.

The degree gives Toby the specialised civil and structural engineering knowledge and skills he needs to work in the industry and eventually enrol in a university and study for a bachelor of engineering.

Completing the associate degree will also give Toby up to 18 months of credit for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) program at TAFE Queensland’s partner universities, reducing his overall study time.

“I’m in the same engineering field, but the day-to-day is completely different, and it’s a steep learning curve that has gotten easier thanks to my teachers,” Toby explains.

“They’re accessible and helpful, guiding me through the theoretical and practical elements of modern civil or structural engineering best practice. I didn't think I had the math skills to be an engineer, but they’ve mentored me to learn Higher Unit Grade math used in engineering.”

“Thanks to them, “I have the skills to model and design elements within civil, structural, municipal and environmental disciplines using industry-standard software,” he said.

Accelerating Toby’s learning is working as a Cadet Structural Drafter with Brisbane-based civil and structural engineering consultant firm Bornhorst+Ward, a full-time role he balances with his part-time studies.

“Andrew Bryant is my direct boss, overseeing six TAFE Queensland structural cadets who have almost finished their associate's degree.”

“He allows us to balance study and work by ensuring our work is flexible so we can attend classes while also sponsoring industry events to meet students and share industry knowledge and information,” said Toby.

“Everything I learn at TAFE directly relates to my job – for example, when engineers give me sketches and mark-ups for what I need to model, I understand where their numbers are coming from, which makes the process a lot easier,” explained Toby.

Toby is working on a significant project: the Logan Hospital Expansion (LEX), a new 7-storey building with new operating theatres and a public realm connecting to existing buildings on site.

“Utilizing an integrated Building Information Modelling (BIM) system, all the disciplines can coordinate across the life of the project and beyond. This is especially useful for maintaining design efficiency and allowing the client at handover to access valuable data for maintenance purposes,” he explained.

The leap in skills required from fabricating balustrades, barricades, architectural handrails and safety fittings as a boilermaker to helping design a hospital is not lost on Toby, to which he credits his TAFE Queensland training.

“I started in fabrication and welding, and Once I had completed my Cert III in Engineering Technical, I began steel detailing workshop drawings for myself and other boilermakers to fabricate. Once I had completed my boilermaking apprenticeship, I moved into structural drafting to pursue a path in structural engineering.”

“Two years ago, I had very little hope of becoming an engineer, but thanks to the successful progression I'm experiencing in my classes, I'm very confident I’ll be a fully-fledged engineer bringing my designs to life here in Brisbane.”

“I’ve developed a way of thinking that leans into how to solve problems with engineering solutions, and engineering is 100% problem-solving. I'm more than confident that I'll be able to tackle my new career successfully,” concluded Toby.