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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

TAFE NSW: A staple ingredient for South Coast supermum

Former TAFE NSW Commercial Cookery student Leayra Thornton says her time at TAFE was the launchpad to a successful career.

South Coast business woman, Leayra Thornton is a local super mum. She has raised a family, completed TAFE NSW qualifications, and runs one of the region’s most successful catering businesses.

From the moment she first strapped on an apron, TAFE NSW has been a staple ingredient in Ms Thornton’s stop-start cooking career.

Her journey started in 2007, when as a fresh-faced first-year apprentice chef she enrolled in a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW Bega.

Above: Tourism on the South Coast is growing, this inspiring local mum has shown how to raise a family and gain TAFE NSW qualifications to run a highly successful business . Former TAFE NSW Commercial Cookery student Leayra Thornton says her time at TAFE was the launchpad to a successful career.

Two years later, life intervened when Ms Thornton put her career and studies on hold when she had her first child.

After growing her family, two years later Ms Thornton was determined to finish the TAFE NSW course she had started. It turned out the delay worked in her favour.

The southern half of NSW is set to experience jobs growth in the tourism market over the next three years. Nationally the event and catering industry is forecast to grow as demand for premium catering continues to increase.

“The flexibility TAFE NSW offered me was incredible,” Mrs Thornton said.

“My teachers were accessible anytime to help and having flexibility in study allowed me to work around the balance of study and family life.”

Five years after enrolling she graduated with her Certificate III, later adding a Certificate IV in Hospitality and a certificate in Food Safety Supervision to her CV.

But her relationship with TAFE NSW wasn’t over. In 2013, Ms Thornton opened Valley Katering, a café and catering service. The location? The canteen at TAFE NSW Bega.

“The Certificate IV really empowered me to make wise business decisions and this was one of them.”

Ms Thornton used her skills and business sense to take her operation mobile through a van. She now caters to some of the region’s largest events.

“TAFE NSW has opened so many doors for me and given me so many connections. In fact I also work part time as a Kitchen Preparation Assistant, so now I’m helping other TAFE students.”

She said the personal touch from teachers and the focus on hands-on experience were the recipe for success through TAFE NSW.

“They do far more than deliver training courses, they recognise the potential in students and really mentor them,” she said.

For information on TAFE NSW courses, face-to-face or online, visit or phone 131 601.


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