Making your own passion with VET

Spanner's story. As a young single mother, Spanner handed in her resignation and became a TAFE student – to suit her lifestyle and family.


A hospitality worker of ten years, and a single mother of one, Spanner knew it was time for a change.

“I was getting up and going to work when my daughter was getting home from school. It wasn’t a lifestyle conducive to being a single parent. I knew I needed to do something different,” says Spanner.

She marched down to her local TAFE and – without a plan in mind beyond needing a new career – asked, “what have you got?”

“The man I spoke to was so confused!” Spanner recalls with a laugh.

“I didn’t have a course in mind. Motorcycle mechanic came up and I thought I could do that. I didn’t really care what industry it was – I knew I could make my own passion,” she says.

Spanner handed in her resignation and became a TAFE student to suit her lifestyle and family.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she says now, 20 years on.

Spanner completed a pre-vocational automotive course, and then went on to complete an apprenticeship.

During her training, Spanner was named national pre-vocational student of the year and apprentice of the year at her employer. But it wasn’t always easy.

“There was plenty of challenges to go with it as one of the few women in my workplace at the time,” she says.

“But I never gave up. I get my drive, my passion from my mother. I wanted to push myself to keep going and do better and better for myself and my family,” says Spanner.

After winning her awards, Spanner decided it wasn’t enough – she wanted to keep going with her studies.

“I did extra subjects because I wanted the information, wanted more knowledge. I wanted to learn more for myself, but also so I could pass it on to others,” says Spanner.

After completing her apprenticeship, Spanner stayed on as a mechanic. But even as the youngest in the shop, Spanner set her sights on something bigger.

“Within the first 12 months working here I decided the business was going to be mine.”

“Even though it was a workshop full of men, I’d never felt more accepted. Soon I was the workshop manager and, after a couple of years, I went back and did a VET course in business management,” says Spanner.

Despite already having a plethora of skills from her first VET courses, Spanner wanted to give herself every opportunity to excel even further. It wasn’t about retraining for another industry; it was about taking the next step with her new-found passion.

The business management course gave her the skills she needed to run the business better – like managing people’s time and output.

Not long after completing that course, her employer became ill.

“I ran the entire shop for six months,” she says.

A few years later, she bought the shop, just as she knew she would.

“For a single parent, a female, an Indigenous woman – to step sideways out of the roles that are written for us, it’s not the easiest task. But I’ve never been the kind of person who will be told what I can and can’t do,” says Spanner.

Now, Spanner spends her time paying it forward.

“I make a point of finding apprentices who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I don’t believe you should be disadvantaged because of where you come from. If people are given the opportunity to excel, they will,” she says.

Spanner regularly takes on apprentices from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and people with disability.

“Your mindset changes as you gain knowledge. No matter your background, I think anyone can benefit from good education and training.”

“What better thing could you do for your mind than VET?”

VET didn’t just lead to a new career for Spanner, it led to a new life. Where will VET take you? Benefit from the flexibility of VET and find courses to suit you on the My Skills website.