How to climb a career that makes a difference.
Sometimes it’s best to think outside the box, and outside of society’s expectations. After all, your life is yours.
Kai was a shy kid who grew up on a property on the North Coast, and liked animals and the bush. So he made an incredible career out of animals and the bush, combining a lot of volunteering with paid work.
In the past few years, after working as an arborist in Sydney, he decided to travel the world to teach Greenpeace activists to climb and come back to Australia, doing extraordinary things like rescuing wildlife from tricky spots.
Sounds simple. Well, nothing is that simple. “I was really engaged with learning in primary school,” says Kai. “But went a bit off the rails as soon as I hit high school. Uni was never something I really had any interest in. I left high school after completing Year 10 and just started working jobs I could find.”
“It took me quite a few years to work out what I wanted to do as a career. I was actually scared that I’d never find that special thing. I grew up on a property with bush, and nature had given me real peace, and I loved it. But it wasn’t until I was about twenty-four and I’d been working for about eight years, that I connected the dots and I decided to study at TAFE NSW.”
In order to find courses that were connected to his goals, Kai looked into conservation and land management, native animal rehabilitation and arboriculture at TAFE NSW.
“My best memories were definitely from our practical climbing days when we’d be given the challenge of safely removing dead trees using complex rigging systems in small teams.
“My teachers were incredibly knowledgeable and they had real world, practical experience and that made all the difference for me. I remember Wayne Hooper, Ivana Strause, and John Douglas were all fantastic teachers.”
“Well, I was just really passionate about wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability. Volunteer advocacy in these areas led me to get involved in climbing as a volunteer with Greenpeace. I found it so rewarding that I decided to become a qualified arborist.
“But being an arborist was for two reasons, really. Firstly, so I could do meaningful work with trees. And also so I could take my climbing skills to a professional level which would improve my climbing skills as a volunteer.
“While I was studying at TAFE NSW, I worked for another arborist. But as soon as I could, I started working for myself. I made the leap. Being self-employed and having the skills, equipment, insurances, and flexibility means that I can volunteer whenever, and however, I want.”
“At the end of January, I drove to Kangaroo Island and spent seven weeks volunteering to climb burnt trees, to help rescue injured and starving koalas after the bush fires. In that time, I helped to rescue one hundred and seven koalas.
“I posted about my experience on social media – partly as a way to cope with what was a really traumatic experience. Media became interested in what I was doing and that eventually caught the attention of Simon and Schuster Australia, who I’ve signed a two-book publishing deal with.”
Kai shared his tips for starting a career you will love: “Find fulfilment and your path as a volunteer. Let your passion motivate you to invest in yourself, so that you can make a meaningful contribution as a volunteer. It’s a long and windy road, but this is sure to create a solid foundation of skills and experience that you can rely on, and contacts that you will find invaluable.”
For more information on TAFE NSW visit www.tafensw.edu.au