Meet a Local Tradie: Trade Education TAFE Coffs Harbour

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The building and construction industry in Coffs Harbour is on the cusp of a boom, with statistics showing 13,000 new homes are needed to keep up with population growth for the area within the next 20 years.

With this information, it’s expected that there will be a rise in demand for skills, training and work across the plumbing and construction trades. Whilst these trades are growing in popularity and in demand for workers, how do other traditional trades fare across the Coffs Coast?

TAFE NSW at the Coffs Harbour Education campus offer an array of courses, in both the Engineering, Welding and Metal Fabrication, and Automotive teaching sections.

The automotive section at TAFE has been a quiet achiever amongst the trades in recent years. Boasting innovative facilities in a workshop that has recently undergone a renovation, students who complete an automotive qualification gain work locally and excel in their courses under the expert guidance of industry professionals.

“We offer qualifications in heavy and light vehicle technology, automotive courses for apprentices in the local area, as well as entry level qualifications for students hoping to start their career in the industry,” head teacher of automotive, Garrie Crossingham explains.

Coupled with strong industry relationships and state of the art facilities, the automotive section welcomes the World Rally Championship organisation on an annual basis on to the campus, for the scrutineering of vehicles used in competition.

“We’re lucky we have great facilities right on our doorstep (here at the campus) and organisations with such a high calibre (such as the WRC), continue to use our workshop.

“One of the official scrutineers said he has travelled all across the country, in and out of different workshops, and says this is by far the most relevant when it comes to industry standards.”

Coffs Harbour Automotive apprentice Nelson Mooney recently performed well at the regional and national WorldSkills competitions, gaining invaluable experience, assisting him in his study and practice of the industry.

“I placed first at the regional competition, allowing me to compete against the nation’s best at the national competition in Melbourne last October,” Nelson says.

“We were set the task of finding the problem in a car engine, and then having to rectify it. It was pretty stressful, but a great experience nonetheless.”

With a rise in the amount of new vehicles purchased across the country, the Motor Trades Association of Australia identifies this as an opportunity for the automotive industry to grow. New car sales are important, as this increases the number of cars on the road, with consumers more likely to spend money on repairs and service of a newer vehicle, rather than an older vehicle.

Qualified tradespeople with skills in engineering, welding, manufacturing and metal fabrication in Coffs Harbour are also in demand.

Head teacher of the section, Paul Leete, outlines the need for these skills, as well a great local success story of a former apprentice, taking on two apprentices in his business.

“We have a fully equipped workshop where students gain skills in welding, metal fabrication, engineering, manufacturing and the use of CAD (computer-aided design) software, that allows creation of two or three-dimensional representations of physical products.

“The industry is one of the less-sexier of the trades; however, the courses we offer give graduates useful skills that can be applied in work or leisure. Welding is especially in demand across the Coffs Coast, due to the amount of rural property owners looking to produce material suited to their property.”

Owner of a local engineering firm, Cain Lynwood, started his apprenticeship at TAFE before going on to gain employment locally in the industry.

“I started my studies and worked closely alongside my extremely experienced teacher, Rob Blake, at the Coffs Harbour Education campus.

“The skills and industry relevance that were incorporated into the course was of extremely high quality. This allowed me to put the theory into practice when working as an apprentice at McMillan Engineering.”

After gaining the skills throughout his apprenticeship, Cain went on to purchase the business from the original owner, renamed it CJ Engineering and has since diversified the offering in his business, now providing services in hydraulics.

“Only recently, we have started to offer services in hydraulics, responding to the market need for these services in our local area.”

Cain has also been able to “give back” to TAFE and the community by hiring and teaching two apprentices the ins and outs of the engineering industry.

“I have since taken on two apprentices in my business as work starts to increase. Offering two employees the ability to learn not only in my workshop, but at the workshop I used to learn in, know and trust, gives me confidence that the skills and abilities they learn will contribute successfully in the work for my business.”

Entry level and pre-apprenticeship courses at TAFE can be a pathway into apprenticeship work for locals across the Coffs Coast. Skills in these fee free courses allow people to build the foundation for a more in-depth understanding, and most of the time, gain stable work in the trade industries.

If you or someone you know are interested in studying an entry level engineering, welding and metal fabrication, or automotive course at TAFE in Coffs Harbour, drop into the Coffs Harbour Education Campus, visit or call 1300 628 233.

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