27 January 2023

Former deep-sea diver ditches the goggles and pours a pint in pursuit of new-found career

| Evelyn Karatzas
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man with beer

Glen Stewart in action behind the Cobargo Hotel bar. Photo: TAFE NSW.

After spending decades underwater as a deep-sea diver, a 69-year-old Bega Valley man has surfaced to pursue a new career in hospitality.

Glen Stewart, from Cobargo, had spent more than 20 years working as a commercial saturation diver before deciding it was time for a change.

After discovering a strong demand for hospitality staff along the Far South Coast, with businesses struggling and still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, Mr Stewart decided to look for part-time work to boost his income and support the hospitality industry.

This led him to enrol with TAFE NSW in Bega to study a Certificate III in Hospitality.

“I moved to the area initially to volunteer with BlazeAid but soon realised the age pension wasn’t enough for me,” Mr Stewart said.

“Because of my age, I couldn’t do really physical work and I didn’t mind the sound of hospitality.

“I chose TAFE NSW because I knew getting a qualification would put me in the front seat for jobs and give me great job security.”

Mr Stewart completed his certificate this month and, before graduating, secured a job as a barman at the Cobargo Hotel, and as a waiter at Sweetwater Smokehouse and Grill in Tilba.

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Before landing a job in hospitality, many of Mr Stewart’s days would involve diving 600 feet (182 metres) beneath the water to work on offshore marine installations and as a life support technician on offshore oil rigs.

As part of his study, he utilised TAFE NSW Bega’s new Multi Trades Hub – The Barracks – which is a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and a functioning training restaurant.

Mr Stewart said having teachers with extensive industry experience guide him, as well as participating in hands-on training, created an ideal learning environment for him.

“It’s all those little nuances of the job they know from their experience in the industry,” he said.

“Little details like table orientation, ironing the tablecloths and putting hand-written dockets in through the pass.

“And to have an actual restaurant to train in means it’s very hands-on, just like the workplace.”

Mr Stewart said to increase his employability and further develop his skills, he would now also consider enrolling in a Diploma of Hospitality at TAFE NSW.

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TAFE NSW Bega hospitality head teacher Deirdre Jory said the training body was working closely with the local hospitality industry to provide a “pipeline of job-ready workers”.

Ms Jory said TAFE NSW was aiming to engage and invite more young people to join the struggling hospitality industry by offering free training to those aged 16 to 24.

They will then have the chance to gain the practical skills to launch a career and/or land a job for summer in high-demand industries, which include hospitality.

This is part of TAFE NSW’s Summer Skills program, which offers fee-free courses to students who want to train, retrain or upskill in a certain industry. The areas involved include hospitality, animal care, education, events, tourism, carpentry, joinery, sports, fitness, health, government and retail.

To be eligible, you must live or work in NSW, be aged 15 and over, and not be enrolled in any school. You also must be an Australian or New Zealand citizen, a permanent Australian resident or a humanitarian visa holder.

More information on the Summer Skills program and all the short courses available can be found on TAFE NSW’s website.

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