Twenty-one-year-old Scottish international student, Grant Volrath was honoured with the Student of the Year Award on Thursday 13 December at TAFE Queensland’s Bundaberg graduation ceremony. The award win comes just one week after Grant was named as the VET Student Champion of the Year at the 2018 Study Queensland Excellence Awards.
Mr Volrath, who completed a Certificate III in Automotive Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology and Certificate IV in Automotive Mechanical Overhauling, said the awards had taken him by surprise but he was grateful for the recognition.
“It was a complete shock; as a tradie, you don’t really get many awards, so I was ecstatic just to have been nominated,” Mr Volrath said.
“To be acknowledged like this, with such a prestigious award on a state level, is quite an honour.”
Mr Volrath was nominated by his TAFE Queensland Automotive Teacher Ian Walsh for his fantastic work ethic and dedication to helping his fellow students succeed — mentoring in class and supporting them in integrating into the community.
Mr Volrath grew up in Uganda and attended a year of boarding school in Scotland before coming to Australia for a gap year. While he was in Australia he met his partner and has since settled in Bundaberg and started a family. Mr Volrath said his past experiences, and the fact he’d already been in Australia for a year before he started his studies, made him want to take others under his wing.
“My parents had a car hire company when I was growing up and I spent all my free time lying under cars with the mechanic and watching what he did, so when I got the opportunity to study automotive here in Australia, I jumped at it, and I’ve never looked back,” Mr Volrath said.
“I’ve always lived in an international community so I’m used to the diversity and understand what it’s like to have to find my feet in a new environment,” he said.
“It wasn’t something I purposely set out to do — it was just natural and I was happy to help.”
Mr Volrath is among the growing number of international students choosing Bundaberg as a study destination. According to a Trade and Investment Queensland Australia report the number of international students enrolling in education and training in Bundaberg set to increase from 750 to 910 in the five years from 2016 to 2021. TAFE Queensland’s Bundaberg campus alone has seen their international student population more than double since semester two of 2016, with a growth rate of 58 per cent.
The same report found there are currently 120,000 students from 160 countries studying across Queensland, with international education and training currently Queensland’s second largest services export, worth more than $4.37 billion.
TAFE Queensland International Executive Director, Janelle Chapman said TAFE Queensland ‘s international program delivers world-class training for visiting students, with the benefits extending far beyond the students themselves.
“From the Pacific Rim to Latin America and Europe, TAFE Queensland’s training is improving overseas industry and workforce skills, while facilitating professional development opportunities and student exchanges for Queenslanders,” Ms Chapman said.
“The flow-on effect from international student enrolments also greatly benefits regional communities. In addition to the 21,000 jobs the international education and training sector supports and the benefits it brings to local economies, international students enrich our communities with their diversity, broadening our knowledge of the world with new perspectives and experiences.”
For Mr Volrath, Australia’s friendly and upbeat attitude was the drawcard that won him over, with the UK national opting to stay after his holiday and study at TAFE Queensland rather than return to Scotland to take his place at university.
“I just love that I can walk down the street and people will randomly say, ‘G’day’. It’s just a positive environment to be in,” he said.
“I really enjoyed my whole study experience — I had great teachers, it was great interacting with the other students, and the course was a good pace that suited me.
“I had contemplated university but I’ve always been more practical and I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, so TAFE turned out to be the better choice for me.
“It’s really opened up new doors for me — I can now go on to run my own business if I want. It’s inspired me to do even better and be the best I can be.”