National Volunteer Week Profile – Jody Ridgeway

Positions: Centre Director, Trades and Resources TAFE Queensland East Coast/Team Leader of the Official Skillaroo Supporters Tour

State: Queensland

Jody Ridgeway first heard of WorldSkills when it was Work Skills all the way back in 1988. A hairdresser by trade with a passion for educating others, Jody was starting to train to become a teacher before moving from New South Wales with her young family to Hervey Bay and starting a hairdressing business of her own in Burrum Heads.

Her passion for educating young people directed her into a casual teaching position in TAFE Queensland in 1994 and joyfully – although she has progressed through various roles she has ‘…been there ever since!’

Through her teaching position at TAFE Queensland, Jody’s awareness of WorldSkills and the competition cycle grew. She became involved with trying to get competitions running across more training areas and encouraging others to take up the opportunity to participate in the regionals.

‘Hairdressing and competitions go hand in hand, so we were eager to be a part of the WorldSkills competition cycle right from my early days with TAFE Queensland. My interest was then to see different disciplines and skills get more involved with the competitions.’

Helping to educate others and share the benefits of being a part of the WorldSkills movement with the intent to increase the number of competitions and disciplines represented across the region, she was determined to encourage more volunteers, co-workers, industry and young people to get involved with WorldSkills competitions. With encouragement and the backing of supportive management such as then Director Trevor Schwenke, Jody’s involvement along with the newly formed regional committee saw an increase of one regional competition in one cycle to 22 the next regional round.

‘WorldSkills reminds us why we do what we do. Teaching, supporting, mentoring and passing on our knowledge and skills. Giving our youth the opportunity to demonstrate their craft to the best of their ability in a regional, national and international area. It is exciting to volunteer with an organisation such as WorldSkills. Watching competitors grow and develop through their WorldSkills journey brightens your day. In my current role at TAFE QLD I’m able to support and encourage others who have a passion for training and am fortunate to experience the positive influence that has on a daily basis.’

As well as teaching and volunteering with WorldSkills, Jody has run several salons over the past 30 years. She recently passed on the salon she had run for the last 10 years, RNR Hairdesigners, over to her 26 year old daughter. As she has passed on her knowledge to her students, Jody is also passing on her skills through her family business, continuing the legacy of discipline and self-competition Jody was instilled with in her own training days. ‘I still work the shop floor every Saturday. It’s good to keep my practical skills up to date and working with the public keeps you grounded’.

Throughout her involvement with WorldSkills Jody has moved from being the Regional contact to a Regional Chair for WorldSkills at TAFE Queensland- East Coast. ‘Now anyone who is a Team Leader in my Centre is automatically on the WorldSkills regional committee. I just see it as going hand-in-hand with their role.’

After many full years of building up the culture of WorldSkills in Queensland, what keeps her dedicated to her role as a volunteer of WorldSkills?

‘I am fortunate that TAFE QLD is very supportive of all WorldSkills activities in particular the work we do in a volunteer capacity. Sometimes I’ll come in an hour earlier or stay an hour later, or schedule meetings during our lunch break etc… I get to work with an amazing team of dedicated volunteers who are always going above and beyond.  We do it because there is something special in attracting like-minded individuals to train and support young, aspiring people. Like most things-you find the time … if you want to.

Volunteering for an organisation like WorldSkills opens up opportunities and exposes you to a broad network of like- minded people passionate about training and enhancing the skills of others across the world. The WorldSkills journey has taken me to London, Germany and soon Abu Dhabi.

I believe in training to achieve your personal best by testing your resilience and competing with yourself. This is a key value that I was trained under and it’s one I wish to pass on to others.’