The student becomes the teacher

As the famous Chinese proverb goes: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

We can take a few lessons from this; firstly of the importance of education and training in giving us lifelong practical skills; and secondly of the invaluable role a teacher plays in sharing their own knowledge and experiences to steer students in the right direction.

The latter is what drives Col Whitbread to come to work every day as an electrical trade trainer for HVTC’s Registered Training Organisation (RTO), Hunter-V-Tec.

Having worked on and off in the industry for the past 36 years, Col knows a thing or two about the electrical trade. Since completing an apprenticeship with the Electricity Commission of NSW in 1982, Col has gained experience as a tradesman, supervisor and manager across a variety of industries, including heavy industrial, commercial, domestic, air-conditioning and high voltage as an Authorised Service Provider involved in the construction of the power network.

Fast forward to 2018 and the wealth of knowledge and experience Col accumulated over the last three decades is helping inspire a new generation of aspiring electricians.

Initially working for Careers Australia, Col joined the HVTC team in 2016 where he is responsible for delivering safety, environmental and technical skills training to approximately 10-15 students each week who are completing either a Cert III in Electrotechnology or work-readiness training on behalf of their host employers.

Knowing first-hand the value of an apprenticeship in a growth trade like electrotechnology, Col said the most rewarding part of the job is being able to help get apprentices on track with their careers and provide them with fundamental skills they’ll use for rest of their lives.

 “I enjoy teaching young people; they have a unique sense of optimism and an eagerness to learn and they’re lots of fun to teach,” he said.

“I’m not the kind of trainer that just likes to tell students what to do, instead I like to collaborate with them. I’ve built a good rapport with my students using this approach and that’s when you get the most out of them.

“I don’t see myself as their superior, but rather as their mentor to help guide them in the right direction.”

Col believes the key ingredient behind his passion for training is his own desire to learn, which has been a catalyst for him to complete additional training over the years, including a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Diploma of Project Management and Cert IV in Training and Assessment as well as numerous short courses.

“I’ve always been interested in learning and developing new skills. I think the best learners want to be teachers as well,” he said.

“When you work as a tradesman you are sort of a teacher anyway in the sense that you act as a mentor for apprentices and guide them to get them up to scratch. This is what peaked my interest in becoming a trade trainer.”

HVTC is on the hunt for likeminded and experienced Electrical and Mechanical trade trainers. If you are passionate about up-skilling Australia’s future workforce and want to work in a supportive team with state-of-the-art facilities, click here to apply (RTO NO. 90179)

HVTC electrical trade trainer Colin Whitbread in the classroom with students at HVTCs Skills Centre in Rutherford