"When I first got into the solar industry, it was just starting to pick up in Australia. I was lucky enough to have some friends who owned a company that I was able to join in with to get into renewable energy and start on that path," said Tom.
"I've been in the industry for quite a number of years now, even running my own business. Being my own boss was challenging, but it was quite rewarding as well being able to partner alongside the apprentices and other tradesmen and bring them up into skill sets that they might not have had. Some guys came from a different background so to come up and to start introducing them to renewable energy was exciting," he continued.
"I've always had a passion for teaching, so it was a bit of a natural step from there to join TAFE Queensland."
But stepping into the classroom hasn't meant the end of working in industry for Tom. He and his fellow teachers continue to work and incorporate many of their industry relationships and partnerships into their teaching.
"One of the things that I find rewarding with TAFE Queensland is being able to still stay industry relevant and current. We still get the opportunity to be able to go out onto jobs, continue to do installs, and keep our finger on the pulse with solar," he explained.
"We also partner with industry suppliers and partners wherever we can. We're not there to promote their brands or anything like that, but we want to be able to give our students those practical tasks, real-world experience, and feedback of equipment that they're going to come across out in the real world."
For Tom, being a teacher doesn't stop when his students and apprentices get qualified and graduate from TAFE Queensland.
"One of the things that I really enjoy doing is being able to offer my services outside of class if I can. Being able to give students my email address, my phone number, even if they haven't been with us for 6 months or 12 months, they can still give us a call as their renewable energy teachers," said Tom.
"If they get stuck out on site, or if they come across something that they might not have had the opportunity to come across before and they might not have that input from someone, they can give us a call, send us an email — we're more than happy to chat."
"As a young electrician I was lucky enough to have mentors of my own, that I could give them a call if I needed to. I just wanted to be able to give back to our students as well, especially the guys that are working for themselves and they might not have people to be able to bounce things off."
With more than a quarter of Australia's energy being produced by renewable sources in 2020, and solar accounting for 34.3 per cent of that energy generation, there's never been a better time to get into the industry.