After commencing her Certificate III in Floristry (SFL30115) studies in January, Cornelia approached local flower grower and florist, Saranah’s Flowers at Carbrook about work experience and was thrilled to land a part-time role.
It was here Cornelia says she was able to experience the realities of floristry during one of the busiest times of the year.
“Despite starting with Saranah’s flowers around Valentine’s Day, I was so new to the industry that I didn’t feel the full effects of just how busy things were — but for Mother’s Day it was quite a different story,” Cornelia laughed.
“My education and training through TAFE Queensland along with the experience working at Saranah’s for the past five months filled me with the confidence I needed to roll up my sleeves and get into whatever needed to be done."
“It was overwhelming at times, from the orders flooding in throughout the week over the phone to the carloads of people arriving every day to place orders and the line ups out the door on Mother’s Day," she said.
“But the simulated shop activity I completed during my TAFE Queensland training taught me to not panic and to just put my head down and focus."
“My training also taught me how important it is to work quickly but still focus on delivering a quality product that customers are happy to pay for," Cornelia said.
Like millions of students all over the world, the COVID-19 lockdowns have impacted Cornelia’s course, which moved to online learning in March — a challenging scenario for a course so reliant upon hands-on training.
Flower shortages nationwide are only adding to the already trying situation, but according to Cornelia her teachers have adapted to these challenges beautifully.
“We have moved to daily Zoom classes where our teachers take us through theory or demonstrate certain practical techniques,” Cornelia said.
“Later in the day we are free to work on our own pieces or arrangements, with the option of reaching out via Zoom to our teachers until late in the afternoon for one-on-one advice and support."
“The flower shortages mean we often can’t source the flowers we need for our projects, but this has added a new twist to our training and now we've been challenged to come up with other solutions or search in our own gardens for alternatives," she said.
“Our teachers have encouraged us to be creative and use whatever we can to keep learning and I’ve definitely learned a lot!”
Following a 16-year career as a Clinical Research Associate, Cornelia reached a point in her life where she knew she wanted to make a change and decided 2020 was her year to switch careers.
“My clinical role was so black and white and I was desperate for some creativity,” Cornelia said.
“I loved flowers when I was a child and entered flower arranging competitions in my local agricultural show back in South Africa where I did quite well."
“Last year I said to my husband, 'it’s time for me to follow my dream' and he was incredibly supportive of my desire to do that," she said.
“It’s funny because I sometimes find myself becoming quite emotional about it all — I still can’t quite believe I am finally following my dream.”
Cornelia will complete her studies in the coming months and hopes to one day run her own floristry business.
“It might take a little longer for me to finish because of COVID but that’s ok — the teachers have been so accommodating because of the circumstances and we are all doing our best,” Cornelia said.
“I spoke to a number of florists before starting my course and everyone recommended TAFE Queensland’s program without hesitation because it was the most comprehensive and widely recognised — I’ve certainly not regretted my decision.”