Seal of approval for Nate

Congratulations to IGS Year 12 student Nathan Turner who has been awarded the Department of Education’s NSW Training Awards Regional Award Winner for the ‘Central & Northern Sydney Region VET in Schools Student of the Year’ award.

Nathan, who is passionate about Vocational Education and Training (VET) and the environment, began volunteering with Taronga Zoo when he was in Year 10 and has continued his Vocational Education with TAFE for Years 11 and 12.

Now a Zoo employee, he has made a lasting impression on the Taronga Zoo community, who nominated him for the award.

“Nathan is a great student and very articulate,” said IGS Careers Advisor Amelia Phillips.

“I first started at Taronga as a young kid experiencing the Keeper For a Day program at the zoo three times,” said Nathan. “Being on that program I learnt about YATZ (Youth At The Zoo), so I became one.

“Being a YATZ I learnt fundamental skills of Guest Experience and animal husbandry and numerous other things. It was from YATZ I was inspired to become a Guest Experience Officer, so I did.

“This all propelled me to understand my two passions for people and animals.

“I’ve also been fortunate to work and volunteer as a Zookeeper at another zoo.

“I then progressed to and still am a YATZ Leader and also a Volunteer Zookeeper in Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital.

“This was around the time I started my TVET course for my Certificate III in Tourism, Travel and Events and I went to my mentors at Taronga to see if they could pull together a placement for me and I was honoured to be offered an internship in the zoos Trade Sales and Contact Centre teams twice a week for a few months.

“Now all of this work history with other events and achievements is what I believe gave me the skills and motivations to gain my first staff position at Taronga as a Guest Experience Officer (GEO) in Taronga’s Guest Experience Operations team.

“I’ve now progressed to being a GEO in Taronga’s Education and Programs teams as well as being an Emergency Warden and First Aider for the zoo.

“To think of where I started as a wee little thing ambitious to where I am now is really special to me and something I treasure deeply.

“I think what I love the most is being able to combine my two passions together, being the people and animals.

“At Taronga I am given the opportunity to create a connection for people to understand the value of how special our wildlife truly is and to change people’s behaviours and understanding of animals, that’s what’s so special to me.

Nathan was nominated by his Trainer and Training Services NSW with the following comments:

Nathan Turner has two passions: people and animals. So, completing a Certificate III in Tourism and a work placement with Taronga Zoo were the perfect combination. He volunteered with Taronga for several years and was honoured to be offered a placement with them, teaching him valuable skills in tourism and customer service. It’s now led to a paid role as a Guest Experience Officer. His positivity, patience, critical thinking skills, and maturity meant he excelled in his studies and his placement, but he always tries to better himself. 

What do you love about vocational training?

“I think what doing a VET course allows for is you to get qualified in an area you’re passionate about. Understanding and having that integrated with my pattern of study makes it feel as though it is a part of my schoolwork rather than an extra effort and keeps me engaged with my qualification because the content is what I love.

“Being a quite practical learner myself I love the variety offered in assessments too of practicability to theory which keeps me more engaged as a learner.”

Where do you think your career might be leading?

“I think I’m excited to just see where it takes me, I know Taronga is the organisation I’ve committed myself to, but I’m quite open to what role I have.

“I’ve also been quite fortunate to have so many wonderful mentors who’ve supported my journey to where I am so far.

“I truly believe in Taronga’s values and the work that they do towards a shared future for wildlife and people.

“Currently my GEO work, my zookeeping work and vet nursing are all paths which I’d love to pursue to help animals and people in sickness and in health while also creating lasting connections for people with wildlife.”

When did you join Sustainable Futures at IGS?

“I joined as a founding member of Sustainable Futures in 2018 and have since been the Biodiversity and Onboarding Leader ever since.”

How has this contributed to your skills and interests?

“I think Sustainable Futures enlightened my ambition for effective communication and fundraising both of which are crucial qualities to my efforts at Taronga and my own personal efforts through initiatives like managing funds and policy writing for School Strike 4 Climate, onboarding and fundraising for IGS’s EMS, a phone drive, HalfCut across multiple years including numerous corporate and major events for Taronga.

“I truly believe all of these efforts have helped me to create my own foundations in my personal progress to now integrate into the roles I have now.”

Do you know what and where you’d like to study or do next year?

“I see myself directly involved with education, animal care and conservation programs associated with Taronga Zoo and across the animal care industry.

Currently I have my:

  • Certificate II in Animal Studies (care)
  • Occupational First Aid Certificate [Receiving August] Certificate III in Tourism [Receiving August]
  • Statements of Attainment in Certificate III Travel and Events

I’ll be looking to do my:

  • [immediately] Certificate III in Wildlife and Exhibited Animal Care
  • [immediately] Certificate IV in Vet Nursing;
  • [opt 1 second year post-grad] Bachelor in Tourism Management (WSU)
  • [opt 2 second year post-grad] Bachelor of Paramedicine (Remote UTAS) &
  • [opt 3 second year post-grad] Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Taronga Wildlife Conservation) (USYD)
Why is education important?

“To me education is important because it’s the very foundation of what we know. What you take in from the education you are given is entirely up to you but what I feel now is as though we are progressing into a time of self-exploration and choice in your own education and I’m really excited to see what that looks like as a new direction for IGS.

“I’ve always been a passionate advocate for TVET education included as apart of subject selections because I know how much that has done for me to pursue my own passions or to allow others to find theirs.

“A lot of people who don’t know what they want to do yet but it’s the gift of education which has created the opportunities to explore the options for what’s next for them.”

What do you love about IGS?

“IGS is a place of acceptance, a home that accepts you for who you are and what you want to be.

“It’s my fellow students’ ambition and passions which are the real driver as we are all going through the motions of school uncovering who we are in an accepting and welcoming community.”

‘Uncover who you are.’

“I think too often students get bogged down in the HSC’s academics rather than pursuing your passions and what I say to those people is to consider who you are.

“You don’t have to know yet but you need to know there are opportunities out there for you to uncover who you want to be and how you’re going to get there.”

Nathan thanks his mentors

“IGS Careers Advisor Ms Phillips has also served as an incredible support for me and she deserves all the praise, the same goes for my TAFE Trainer Fiona Fox.

“They have both been welcoming and accepting of who I am, have been there to listen and support me through the good times and bad but most importantly have believed in me which has gone further than they would know.

“Both have taught me the value in expressing your passions and the importance of sharing that with other people.

“Thank you to Ms Phillips and Fiona for supporting so many students in finding their own passions and supporting them along the way.”

All the very best to Nathan and the IGS Class of 2022! We’re proud of you.