Born into a family of passionate farmers, former Armidale student Toby Walker was always destined for a career on the land.
And now, thanks to the skills he gained at TAFE NSW Armidale, Toby is taking his career to the next level, travelling around Australia living his dream as a shearer.
"The greatest thing about working in agriculture is knowing that farmers feed the world," Toby said. "In doing so, we have the ability to repair and regenerate the land for the next generation."
Toby is working in Western Australia for BA Millar Shearing at Bencubbin.
Here the 18-year-old's exceptional results rival those of his colleagues who boast decades more experience.
He shears about 180 sheep and crutches 600 sheep per day. On several occasions, he has shorn 200 merino ewes and 300 merino lambs in a day.
"These numbers are unheard of for someone who has only been shearing for 18 months," his proud father, Scott, said.
"Toby is very focused on becoming an elite shearer. He loves the independence of the shearing industry; the freedom of choice; and a stable job where he can work almost anywhere in Australia or overseas while doing something he loves."
Toby was home schooled for most of his primary and secondary years. At the age of 13, the Queensland Education Department allowed him to enrol in a Certificate III in Agriculture while still attending high school through distance learning.
TAFE NSW agriculture teacher Paddy Fagan said: "Toby was a very self-motivated student, and despite his young age he was very mature and ambitious to succeed.
"In all my 25 years at TAFE NSW, he is one of the hardest working, most talented young students that I have had the pleasure of teaching."
After completing the diploma, Toby enrolled in a Certificate IV in Woolclassing at TAFE NSW. He is completing the course via remote, blended delivery learning all the way from Western Australia.
"Learning to shear has allowed me to travel and meet lots of people from some really interesting backgrounds," Toby said. "Studying at TAFE NSW has helped me provide my family with another perspective on our farming practices, and make more profitable decisions."
Scott added: "Toby has an amazing ability to progress through work and study at a rapid rate. This has been shown right throughout his work and schooling life. He is always keen to learn, and commits himself to the task at hand 100 per cent."
Shearing is a thriving industry, according to the Australian Government's Jobs Outlook website. The number of shearers across Australia grew strongly over the past five years, and more than 4,000 new jobs will be generated over the next four years.
"I would strongly encourage other students to study in agriculture because it is one of the most rewarding areas to study - one where you never stop learning," Toby said.
TAFE NSW has several agriculture and shearing courses available for students to complete either on campus, or via remote, blended delivery. For more information, visit www.tafensw.edu.au, or phone 131 601.