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Serving up success, how Ben Tan went from student to lecturer


    Ben Tan was born in Singapore and moved to Perth, Western Australia (WA) in December 2007 to pursue his studies in commercial cookery and hospitality management at the Bentley campus of South Metropolitan TAFE (SM TAFE).

    Ben completed his studies in July 2010 and almost instantly found employment within the industry. It was in 2020 he started working at SM TAFE as an events management lecturer at the Bentley, Fremantle and Mandurah campuses, teaching a variety of units across events, hospitality management, food and beverage and first aid. 

    In this article, Ben shares how his TAFE qualifications have helped him in finding employment and building his life in Perth. 

    Where are you from and when did you move to Australia?

    I’m originally from Singapore, and I moved to Perth, Western Australia in December 2007.

    How did you adapt to WA?

    I easily adapted to life in WA with the help of good-quality friends that I met in and outside of SM TAFE. 

    Because almost all my classmates were international students, we were all very supportive of each other, motivating each other as we progressed through our years of studies together. I believe that this was really what helped me adapt to life here. 

    Why did you choose your course and why in Western Australia?

    I always had a passion for cooking since I was a kid. This was amplified during my secondary education when I was in Singapore. I can openly share that I didn’t do well in my other subjects, except for food and nutrition. It was quite definitive that I was heading towards a hospitality pathway at that point of time. 

    I visited Perth to experience the environment here before I made my decision to stay. I was initially planning to study hospitality in a private Registered Training Organisation (RTO). This changed instantly after my very first visit to Bentley. I was blown away by all the training facilities available. Overall, this was what got me to select my course with SM TAFE.

    What courses did you study at TAFE?

    Lecturer Ben Tan point towards a coffee machine to his right. On his left, is a student wearing a white shirt and grey/brown apron.

    I completed commercial cookery and hospitality management courses during my time at Bentley campus.

    What impressed you about the facilities on your campus?

    I will always remember my first visit to Bentley campus where I was blown away by all the training facilities such as the kitchens, restaurant and bar. It was something that I had never seen before. I loved that there were a lot of greenery around the campus as well, providing a nice relaxing vibe.

    What were the best things about your lecturers?

    The best things about my lecturers were just how awesome they were. They were all highly skilled in their various crafts and possessed an infinite amount of industry knowledge. 

    My lecturers taught me more than just hospitality skills, they taught me what the industry norms were and how to have the right attitude. The lecturers were dynamic and extremely passionate about what they were doing. They were very supportive and committed to our lives and our progress in the industry. I stayed in touch with most of my lecturers after graduation. 

    As the classes were mostly conducted in a hands-on practical environment, it definitely provided me with an authentic learning experience that helped set my foundations as a hospitality professional. The skills that I have obtained then were a good steppingstone for my hospitality career. 

    Additionally, the great support I have received from the TAFE International Western Australian (TIWA) office from when I was a student is highly commendable. It was great to have the additional support provided when I was trying to adapt to life as a student in TAFE as I was not used to it when I first started.

    How does life in Australia compare to home?

    Growing up in Singapore, I was always surrounded by a concrete jungle. WA is different with lots of natural wonders and hidden gems. 

    Having worked regionally in Broome, Geraldton, Margaret River and now Mandurah, I was able to visit many beautiful natural sites that Australia has to offer. 

    Life in Australia is different. It’s much more relaxed with a great work/life balance. Workplaces genuinely care about you and the culture is nurturing.

    What are some fun activities you’ve been enjoying in your free time?

    I personally enjoy exploring the food and beverage scene around Perth such as restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries, distilleries, and wineries. I am always amazed by the eating and drinking scene here in Perth, it is just so underrated. There is so much Perth and WA has to offer! 

    The fun activities I enjoy has changed a lot for me in the last couple of years since I became a parent. I now enjoy family friendly activities such as visiting the markets, parks, and the events that run for kids.

    How long did it take to find a job with your TAFE certification? 

    It was almost immediately. I never had difficulties in seeking employment in the industry. As the lecturers were still actively connected to the industry, I was able to quickly get good jobs from their networks.

    What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?

    Frothed hot milk is being poured from a silver jug into a white cup with espresso in it. In the background is a silver coffee machine.

    My current job title at SM TAFE is Events Management Lecturer. My key responsibilities are the same general duties as other lecturers such as delivering classes, industry engagement, writing units and more. With my current 15 qualifications and accreditations, I teach a wide variety of units within events, hospitality management, food and beverage and first aid offered, from qualifications ranging from Certificate II to diploma level.

    What do you love most about your job?

    This question is like asking a parent to pick a favourite child! To answer this, my favourite part of my job is definitely the student engagement. Interacting with the students helps me to learn about their cultures and their lives. 

    Many students, especially the international students, come from an interesting background with their own back stories to share. During these conversations with them I get to reminisce about my time as an international student just like them. 

    I love the fact that I get to share my love and passion for the industry and inspire the future leaders of the events and hospitality industries. I love how I can play the bridging role for my students to connect them and get them ready for the industry. Nothing brings me more joy than whenever I see my students graduate and do well in industry. Overall, it makes me feel like I am fulfilling a higher purpose in my life.

    Do you have any advice for students considering applying at TAFE?

    Just do it, you won’t regret it!

    There are many courses on offer that are delivered at different campuses throughout WA so there is definitely a course for everyone. 

    Many students have asked me why they should consider TAFE. I tell them that coming to TAFE is an investment. You are guaranteed a good return with the authentic learning environment and training you will go through. I can testify that in terms of quality, we are first in vocational training in Western Australia, and that TAFE is your ideal choice if you are serious about your field or industry.

    Anything else?

    Why not make vocational education your first choice? Especially if you know that you are a hands-on learner who is passionate about a specific job or industry. Speak to the lecturers to find out more about the courses.

    Last updated on December 7, 2023