Jessica Martin’s Speech

Event – Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, Year 12 Graduation Ceremony

Speech by Jessica Martin
Restaurant Service representative at the 2013 WorldSkills International Competition, Leipzig


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and the graduating students of year 12,

My name is Jessica Martin and 3 months ago I represented Australia at the 42nd WorldSkills International Competition held in Leipzig, Germany. I competed in the Restaurant Service category and placed 2nd in the world.

How does one get to experience that? Well I am here tonight to talk to you about my journey, achievements, opportunities and success since finishing school.

So where did it all begin? As a child I was brought up around our family businesses and my dad has also been a chef for over 40 years. Being exposed to the hospitality industry from a very young age gave me particular insight into the workings of a kitchen and restaurant floor.

I went to school at Menai High where I studied cookery, which made me realise that I wanted to further my knowledge into hospitality. I left high school in 2007 after completing my certificate.

For me I knew I didn’t want to finish school in year 12 because I wanted to go straight into learning further about the world of hospitality. I was unable to study vocational subjects at my high school so the decision to leave early and jump into my career was the right one.  I only wish I had access to the facilities like you do here, which benefits you in so many ways.

Knowing that I was going to finish in year 10, I decided to take on six weeks of work experience which was offered to people who were considering leaving. Most people tried a different job every week but I committed to one for the six week period. I completed my work experience at Fraser’s Suits in Kent Street, a five star worldwide hotel. Here I worked in every sector of the hotel which helped me in deciding whether I wanted to work in restaurants or hotels.

Once my work experience had finished they took me on as a paid employee where I worked in housekeeping. This was HARD work but it paid off. After six months of working there and finishing school I got offered a trainee managers job in Switzerland and Dubai with two of their newly opened hotels.

Somewhat naively I decided to decline this amazing opportunity and instead pursued working in other aspects of hospitality. I felt I needed to get experience over all outlets in the industry whilst studying the managerial side. Along the way I got to work in some pretty cool places, met lots of people and learnt a lot from their experiences.

Whilst working in many different jobs I was also studying. This is where my passion for hospitality really grew. I chose to study at TAFE NSW Northern Sydney Institute’s Ryde Campus. They are renowned for being the best for hospitality with an incredible knowledge base of teachers and wonderful facilities. I started studying there at the age of 17 and I am still there now acting as a mentor for younger students.

You can definitely say my love for the industry grew the more I studied and learnt. Being able to do both hands on learning with practical classes and theory was the perfect thing for me. Being able to have that vocational exposure is the closest you will get to the real thing, and I can definitely say that after a tour of your college I can see you have all gained those work-like skills in your school environment.

Whilst at Ryde Campus I was exposed to WorldSkills Australia, a non-for profit organisation that aims to encourage Australians to celebrate vocational education and training. They achieve this goal through competitions held on regional, national and international levels. All of which I competed in over a two year cycle. It provides you with the skills and abilities to compete within a rapidly changing global market.

My journey with WorldSkills started when I was 17 and undertaking my first hospitality course. I enrolled into a Certificate IV in Hospitality Supervision at Ryde Campus, to gain further insight into an industry I already loved. When my restaurant service teacher insisted on me entering this competition called ‘WorldSkills’ I was certainly apprehensive at first.

Being the stubborn youngster that I was I didn’t want any part in a competition. A week later, after trying to push me some more to compete he told me that it was compulsory in order to pass the class, even though I later found out it wasn’t. With next to no training prior to the competition I went in on the day and cried before it even began, I rang my dad and said I didn’t want to do it but he said to me ‘what have you got to loose’.

That year I was the youngest to compete and had to serve non-alcoholic wine instead of the real thing. By training at Ryde, and seeing past international Australian medallists and hearing about their journeys only showed me what the competition could do for determined young trades people like myself.

I completed my Certificate IV Diploma, and Advanced Diploma in Hospitality by 2011. In 2012 I decided to study a Diploma in Events Management when the head teacher suggested I compete in the WorldSkills Regional Competition. I ended up placing 2nd by .2 of a mark, you could understand my disappointment by such a small margin. This result spurred me on and with persistence and determination I was lucky enough to be chosen as a representative for the Sydney Region at the WorldSkills National Competition held in August last year.

Once I was chosen this made me realise how serious it had become. It was then that my training intensified and I was exposed to a whole new world of restaurant skills.

When we arrived at Sydney Olympic Park, the bus stopped out the front and that’s when the nerves hit me. Seeing 500 competitors in their state jerseys reality set in. I knew it was going to be a tough week.  I had never felt so anxious when  I was hearing my category’s results being read out. Already crying, I couldn’t even tell you exactly what I was feeling but all I remember was hearing my name called out for the gold medal and me jumping out of my seat with joy.

Following my success and gold medal achievement at the National Competition, competitors then went through a selection process, which determined who would be chosen as representatives for Team Australia. I was very proud to be a part of the 2013 Skillaroos, which consisted of 30 other young and talented trades people from all over Australia.

We were all off to Germany to compete at the 42nd WorldSkills International Competition in Leipzig.

In Germany, we were faced with four fierce days of competition, joining over 1000 competitors from 63 countries, 2000 experts, 3000 volunteers and over 200,000 visitors at a venue with 120 thousand square meters. You could imagine my nerves that lead up to the final preparations.

Over the four days of competition, I did a variety of different tasks and workplace scenarios including; casual dining, banqueting, bar and fine dining, carving fruit, cooking at the table and flambeing desserts in front of the guests to name a few. I competed against 28 other representatives from around the world. Never did I think that my vocational education would take me to Europe. It was also my first trip overseas and I was doing something that I love and have such a passion for.

After all my hard work I placed second in the competition taking home a silver medal for Australia. Overall the Skillaroos received a total of 19 medals including one gold, two silver, one bronze and 15 Medallions of Excellence.

The competition was such an eye opener. At the end of each day I could feel myself growing and changing as a person. Words really can’t describe the experience. Becoming part of a team that consisted of Australia’s best is such an amazing personal achievement and has made me realise how far I have come. Trusting in the people who believed in me has got me to where I am now.

With WorldSkills, came a lot of media opportunities including magazines, radio and TV.  I was recently on Channel 10’s ‘The Living Room’, where I had to do a blind wine tasting with Doctor Chris Brown and also a champagne tower with Miguel.  I was also a part of the live cross from Germany on Channel 7’s Sunrise where the country was informed of our success.

After the competition also came job offers to work overseas. Through my WorldSkills journey I have become an Ambassador for Australian Apprenticeships and in November I have the great honour of flying to India to speak at a conference about my story and skills. I also got to meet fellow Ambassador Neil Perry at MAD 3 food conference held in Copenhagen and got to speak about vocational education and skills in Australia, along with other famous chefs from around the world.

Since arriving back in Australia I have started to train the new up and coming competitors for the Sydney Regional Competition. I also have the opportunity to Judge at the 2014 WSA National competition to be held in Perth next year.

The vocational education I undertook has prepared me beautifully for the real world of work. Over the past 18 months I have been working in two hatted restaurants in Sydney; Black by Ezrad and Momofuku Siebo.

David Changs, Momofuku Seiobo is where I currently work, I look after tables in both the food and wine service. The restaurant holds three chef hats. It’s currently Australia’s number one restaurant and ranked in the top 100 in the world.

I think my story is about knowing that it’s OK to say no to opportunities and that you can take the risk to try something new.

You’re all going to be starting your own careers and life journeys soon, and when I look back to when I finished school I never imagined that I would be where I am today.

I wouldn’t have been able to gain the life experiences I have today without the support and belief in myself and the support of those around me.

Be the best you can be and the world really is your oyster.

Thank you.