Age no barrier for HVTC trainee

‘It’s never too late to switch careers’.

That’s the message HVTC trainee Brad Hancock want to get across to other adults thinking about making a career change.

Twelve months ago, the then 34-year-old made the life-changing decision to commence a Certificate II Horticulture Traineeship with HVTC Mid Coast.

Although a qualified primary school teacher and personal trainer, a passion for nature had been planted in the back of his mind since his very first job as a groundskeeper.

“Horticulture is something I’ve always been interested in. My very first job was as a groundskeeper at a popular tourist attraction, which I really enjoyed,” he said.

But like many school leavers, Brad was convinced that university was the only pathway to a successful career and ultimately decided to study primary school teaching at the University of New England.

After graduating, Brad worked at various schools across NSW and London for three years but realised pretty quickly that the classroom wasn’t for him.

Leveraging off his teaching skills and an interest in physical education, Brad worked as a personal trainer for seven years, during which he had managed to save up enough money to buy his first home. This would become a pivotal moment in his decision to pursue horticulture as a career.
“When I bought my first home I was excited to finally have my own patch of garden. The kids and I spent a lot of time planting vegetables and native trees and it really inspired me to consider doing it as a career,” he said.

“So while I continued to work as a personal trainer I volunteered at a wholesale nursery to make sure it was really what I wanted to do before jumping in and applying for a traineeship.

“It would have been nice to get into horticulture earlier on in my career as I’ve been loving every minute of it. Plus I love being outdoors – it’s hard not be happy when you’re working outside every day.

“Teaching was the wrong choice and in hindsight I should have left university when I had the chance. But on the plus side, working as a teacher has given me a lot of great personal, professional and communication skills that I use today.”

Brad is now in the second year of his traineeship with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, where he is responsible for grounds maintenance of the Council’s community assets, including parks, playgrounds, gardens and sporting grounds, to name a few.

As a father of two children who regularly utilise the local parks and recreation areas, Brad gets a lot of satisfaction knowing his job is helping the local community.

“My role is very community oriented and I have a strong sense of pride ensuring the leisure areas are up to scratch for people to use,” he said.

Evidently passionate about his role, Brad was named Trainee of the Year at the 2018 HVTC Excellence Awards and is in the running for Trainee of the Year at the NSW & ACT Group Training Awards, which will be announced in Sydney on October 12.

Now flying the flag for mature-aged apprentices and trainees, Brad encouraged anyone to consider retraining in a new field if it’s something they’re passionate about.

“Applying for a traineeship was the best decision I ever made,” he said.

“I’m getting paid to learn and it makes more sense learning skills I’ll actually use rather than the philosophy behind it, which is where I don’t think university really prepares people for the workplace.

“You only live once, so as long as your family can afford it, why not try something you’ve always wanted to do?”

HVTC has a number of apprenticeships and traineeships on offer and mature-aged candidates are welcome to apply. Click here to search through our current vacancies. 

HVTC Mid Coast horticulture trainee Brad Hancock kneeling in the garden with his two children