Farm skills drive medallist
Hands-on skills gained on the farm and a passion for his chosen field helped 2016 Beazley Medal: Vocational Education and Training (VET) winner Tate Bertola realise his dream of ending his secondary schooling experience on a high note.
Esperance Senior High School graduate Mr Bertola, 18, was named one of Western Australia’s top secondary students for the year by Education Minister Peter Collier.
Mr Collier said the Beazley Medals were the “highest honour in WA secondary education”.
Mr Bertola was awarded this on the basis of strong performance in a VET program, with his achievements including a VET exhibition and VET certificate of excellence in Automotive, Engineering and Logistics plus consistent achievement of A grades in his WACE courses.
Mr Bertola said that a childhood growing up on the family farm on Parmango Road at Beaumont, 60km from Condingup and on the short cut to the Nullarbor, meant that he was used to working and “doing things with his hands”.
“Growing up on a farm means you are used to being fairly active; you always have to help out — this is good because when you do get to sit around, you realise that it is nothing special and that you are better off to be working at something,” he said.
Mr Bertola said that the farm environment was a “good way to grow up”.
“You do develop a good knowledge base and skills that lots of other people don’t have,” he said.
After finishing his early education at the Condingup Primary School, Mr Bertola headed into the “big smoke” to complete his high school studies at the Esperance District High School and boarded at the Esperance Residential College.
Talking about his decision to pursue the VET stream of studies rather than the WACE route, Mr Bertola said he had been undecided about which path to take until he completed a work placement with auto electrician Chris Perks.
This experience fostered his passion and ultimately resulted in him being employed by Mr Perks at the start of this year.
“By the time I finished high school, I had the skills which enabled me to get a job, and I had been able to get experience in the industry,” he said.
He said the VET program enabled students to gain skills and exposure to career options while allowing potential employees to see what students were capable of.
The award was not something granted out of the blue, with a process of interviews and selections meaning that it was not a simple case of receiving acknowledge- ment on the basis of school results but an arduous process requiring commitment on the part of the student, their family and the educators who make it possible.
“The award recognises academic achievement, but it also gives you something to aim for,” Mr Bertola said.
He admitted that his win had not been a haphazard and lucky event.
“I set my sights on a high level of achievement, and as long as you are interested 100 per cent, nothing is hard,” he said.
Mr Bertola said his parents and teachers had been “awesome” in providing support, and his teachers at the Esperance Senior High School and the South Regional TAFE had kept students like him occupied and working to a high standard, making it possible for him to achieve his personal aim of winning the prize and gaining entry to the career of his choice.
Life on the farm had been a “fair influence” on Mr Bertola’s life so far, and though his current employment was off-farm, he was not willing to write off a return to the farm life in the future.
“There is a fair chance I will eventually end up back in farming,” he said.
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