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Melinda Jeffrey

Engineering trades teacher

Melinda Jeffery wasn’t keen on uni so she chose a vocational pathway and became a star apprentice instead. Now she’s an engineering trades teacher and loves it

The thought of three years stuck in a classroom environment at uni almost led Melinda to drop out of school in Year 12. But some helpful career advice and hands-on work experience got her through. Today, she’s back in the classroom: this time around as the teacher!

“Everyone was telling me I was always going to go to uni, so I thought that was the only pathway available for someone who was good at school,” Melinda says.

She signed up for a heavy subject workload with the aim of getting an engineering scholarship, and then things all came unstuck. “Halfway through Year 12, I realised I really didn’t want to go to uni; I didn’t want to sit in the classroom for the next three years studying,” Melinda says.

With school support, Melinda spent the last months of Year 12 working one day a week in a local engineering factory. This made it easier for her to transition into a trade when she finished.

“I had my final chemistry exam on 11 November, and on 12 November I started my apprenticeship. I knew what I was getting into and I was happy to do it,” she says.

In 2014, she was named Australian Apprentice of the Year at the Australian Training Awards.

As her career progressed, Melinda says she wanted to do more to mentor and teach new apprentices coming into the trade, but that wasn’t always feasible on the job.

“Then I got a call from one of my teachers at TAFE and they said: ‘How would you like to try your hand at teaching?’ And I said: ‘Yeah, let’s give it a try’,” she recalls.

“I started off as a casual, just doing night classes. And after I did that for six months, I realised I loved it.”

Melinda’s study and career path to becoming an engineering trades teacher

  • Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade
  • Certificate IV in Engineering
  • CNC Machinist, Hargo Engineering
  • CNC Programmer and Operator, Harrop Engineering
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
  • Engineering Trades Teacher, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was brought to you in partnership with the National Careers Institute and first appeared in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2023.

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