NSW VET Teacher of the Year
Rob Lawson, a teacher at Boorowa Central School an hour out of Canberra, is so committed to his job that he commutes weekly from his family home in Sydney.
It's this kind of devotion that has won Mr Lawson NSW VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year 2011.
A qualified chef by trade, Mr Lawson, Boorowa's head teacher Technical and Applied Science/VET, said he "fell into" working for TAFE NSW as a casual teacher and then became a VET classroom teacher about 10 years ago through the accelerated teacher training program.
The accidental sea change, he joked, was his mid-life crisis.
"I changed careers rather than getting the red convertible," he said.
The impact of the VET program
Mr Lawson began teaching at Airds High School in Campbelltown and quickly saw the impact of the program.
"The VET subjects are a saviour for kids who would otherwise get trapped in the system," he said. "The practical option keeps these kids engaged and shows them a clear hands-on career pathway."
For the past four years, Mr Lawson has been head teacher at Boorowa Central School, delivering the hospitality training package. He also teaches design and technology, food technology and mandatory technology and is a member of the school council and executive.
He praised the accepting attitudes of the principal and staff who allowed students to pursue work or an apprenticeship in Year 11 if they were serious about a career.
"I left school in year 11 to train as a chef. Completing the HSC and going to uni isn't for everyone and we need to recognise that there are different pathways out there that are just as valid," he said.
In a regional area with limited work opportunities, Mr Lawson has built up a network of industry contacts and secured work placements for his students.
He also established a network between the surrounding high schools (Yass, Young and Murrumburrah) to give VET teachers the opportunity to share resources, ideas and validate assessment tasks.
Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program
Funding through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program had allowed the creation of garden areas and an outside cafe (called The Rusty Spoon) that will be open to the public once a fortnight and would be run by the hospitality students in 2012.
Photo: Rob Lawson (supplied by subject).