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February 17, 2022

Taking the right course

Some of the best and brightest students are turning their backs on classroom-based learning, and opting for a more hands-on approach to higher education in the form of apprenticeships.

  • This article was produced in collaboration with Maxima.

When Isabella Carubia was young, she could be found pottering around the family garden with her father.

“My dad’s been a horticulturist for 40 years, and I remember working with him on weekends in the garden as a kid,” Isabella says.

“I learned so much from him just by being in the garden with him and that knowledge has been really valuable to me now.”


This article was produced in collaboration with Maxima.

To find out more about their apprenticeship and traineeship options, visit the website

Isabella is in the third year of her horticultural traineeship with Burnside Council, and credits her father for helping realise what she wanted to do.

After working as a retail store manager during her teenage years, Isabella was ready for a change at 19. University wasn’t her thing, despite getting into teaching and nursing courses.

So her father suggested she call Maxima and opt in for an apprenticeship or traineeship.

“I applied for the police force and I applied for this, and I decided to go with whatever came first,” Isabella says.

“I had my interview with the force and my interview with Maxima – it was funny, it was a day apart, and Sarah from Maxima called me one day and then the police next.

“I never considered swapping, it was a sign it was meant to be.”

Isabella is part of a wave of school leavers not opting for the traditionally trodden path of attending university, but choosing to start an apprenticeship.

The rate of new apprentices and trainees increased 60 per cent in the 12 months to June 2021, according to new data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

It’s expected these numbers will climb due to skilled labour shortages and government subsidies for employers taking on apprentices.

Maxima’s trainee and apprenticeship management consultant Sarah Tinkham says a lot of the time these programs lead to full-time work.

As an organisation supporting people into meaningful work, Maxima offers experience in areas such as horticulture, mechanics, business admin, cyber security, carpentry and hospitality.

“It’s not just a dead end where you get a certificate and then you’re on your own sort of thing,” Sarah says.

“You’re building up relationships, you’re building up your skill base as well, while also learning on the job and becoming part of that team straight away.

“We cover all the fees, so we pay for TAFE and all of that sort of stuff, so they literally just rock up for work and get paid for that. So they finish it without any debt to their name either.”

Sarah says often people will dive into an apprenticeship, and then enrol for university after their four-year traineeship is over.

“For something such as horticulture with Isabella, she can go onto environmental management and all that sort of stuff down the track through university,” she says.

“It’s still related to the industry, but she understands the ins and outs from the ground all the way up. The learning is relevant.”

Sarah started her career through a business traineeship with Maxima about 20 years ago, and worked her way up through the company.

“I’ve seen people who were really bright start as a trainee, get the trade qualification, progress their career significantly and then go to university and progress their career again,” Sarah says.

“Damien Hough came through us and he’s now running Adelaide Oval; Justine Mills, who plays for the Adelaide Crows, started as a civil construction apprentice and she’s worked her way up into city planning and infrastructure.”

For Isabella, the best part of the experience is getting positive feedback from residents, and working with a supportive team.

“If you’ve got a good working environment, everything else is just good. If you can come to work, feel comfortable and have a laugh, the job just happens,” she says.

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