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Interview: Luke Allan

Churchill:

Awesome. Okay. Luke, can you still hear me?

Luke:

Yeah, it’s a bit quieter, but I can still hear you.

Churchill:

Is it? Oh, okay.

Luke:

Oh, that’s better.

Churchill:

Is that better? Okay.

Luke:

Yeah.

Churchill:

Good. So how’s your day been so far?

Luke:

Yeah, going good.

Churchill:

That’s good. And you’re in Riverstone?

Luke:

Live in Riverstone, yes.

Churchill:

Riverstone. Whereabouts is that?

Luke:

Well, it’s West Sydney.

Churchill:

Okay. All right. So you’re in Sydney?

Luke:

Yeah, I’m just probably 10, 15 minutes out of Richmond, which is where I work.

Churchill:

Right. Okay. Gotcha. Well, Luke, thank you so much for being willing to have a quick chat with me about your Recognition of Prior Learning journey. So I’ll keep it pretty short. I won’t take up too much of your time and I’ll just ask you a few general questions and then just get you to answer, and I’ll just go one by one. So first of all, if you can just tell me a bit about your career history. Just talk me through what’s brought you up to this moment in time.

Luke:

Yeah, sure. So basically, finished school. I had a year out of school where I’d applied for the air force and I was waiting to be accepted. Just did a few odd jobs around the place, nothing too serious. And then obviously found out I got accepted to the air force. Joined in 2004. I’ve been in the air force ever since. So it’s coming up on 17 years now.

Churchill:

Wow.

Luke:

And done a multitude of… obviously just had the one job title, but done a multitude of different tasks within the air force.

Churchill:

What’s your job title?

Luke:

My job title is, it’s a ground support equipment technician. So we’re called JSE techs, but essentially our qualification is we’re a heavy vehicle mechanic. So a diesel fitter, heavy vehicle mechanic, similar to the [inaudible 00:02:28] work in the mines or any of the heavy industries within the private sector.

Churchill:

Logistics and transport as well, probably.

Luke:

Sorry?

Churchill:

In logistics and transport as well, I’m guessing.

Luke:

That’s right. Yeah, logistics, transport, people that work for CAT or Komatsu or heavy machinery, stuff like that. But obviously being in defense, we’re not just employed to do our trade. We do a heap of other stuff as well. So pretty much I got to where I am now, which is the current role I’m doing. But if I backtrack two years, because I’ve been doing this role for two years, I obviously got to the point where I realized that I am going to leave the air force. So like I said, coming up on 17 years, I’m doing one more posting for three years and that’ll be my 20 years. And that’s where I’m going to cut ties and go and see where the grass is greener.

Churchill:

So what’s been the catalyst for your decision to start looking at leaving?

Luke:

A combination of factors. Obviously, I signed up for retention. So at 15 years I signed up for retention to 20 years. So that was the main one, but obviously-

Churchill:

What does that mean?

Luke:

So basically at 15 years, you have the opportunity to sign up for what they call a retention. It comes through our super. It’s a retention, so you sign on for another five years and you do 20 years and they’ll give you one year’s salary as a lump sum. So they dangle the carrot and they get you for another five years.

Luke:

So that was the main driver, but there was a few other bits and pieces, obviously a couple of medical issues. So I can’t be deployed anymore. Like I said, I’ve been doing the job for a fair amount of time now, so pretty much there’s no areas for expansion. I can’t get promoted to higher ranks, but our trade is very slow with promotions. So it’s getting to the point where it’s not getting stale and stuck in a rut, but I can see a few years down the track, it could possibly go that way.

Churchill:

Okay. All right. So the other catalyst for you is career growth and wanting some new challenges by the sound of it?

Luke:

Pretty much. Yeah. Yep. That’s exactly right. I mean, for me to do this job now, and even if I move to other areas, other locations, I’m still doing the same thing.

Churchill:

So you mentioned that you can’t be deployed. When you’re in defense, is that a positive or a negative?

Luke:

It depends who you are. Look, it’s not an overall negative. I can still go places and do things, but being deployed into a war-like situation is not on the cards, and that comes with the job. That’s what people join up to do. They want to join up, learn their job, but they also want to do their job in a deployed environment.

Churchill:

Okay. The reason I ask is because from my point of view, if I was in defense, I would see it as a good thing that I couldn’t be sent into a war, but I know that that’s my mentality, whereas I guess, is it exciting, or is it that you feel like you’re serving your country? Can you explain to me about that to me, just because it’s probably such a different mental attitude than maybe your average person.

Luke:

Yeah. It’s hard to explain. I mean, not the average person, but the normal people, the civilians, they will never understand it because they don’t get to go through the training and obviously learning a trade, doing the training, but also the other side of the coin, which is the military, all your military skills. And you’re doing two jobs in tandem as you progress through and you learn.

Luke:

And then obviously, depending where you work, we have a lot of personnel, we’re probably one of the biggest work areas on the base. So there’s a big camaraderie there. We’re all mechanics. We love to do the same thing. So I think to be able to do your job is one thing, and everyone enjoys to do that, but then the way we’re trained and the way we progress through our career, we’re always looking to be deployed. We’re going on exercises to do training. It’s just something that, I guess, over time, it’s just slowly but surely, not hammered into you, but it just becomes entrained. You know what I mean?

Churchill:

Yeah.

Luke:

I’m here to do my job, to serve my country and do my job in a war-like situation, so that’s what I’m trying to do. And for people that haven’t gone, it’s just the experience. The whole experience of going to a different country and experiencing different cultures and different people, places. I guess it’s everything that goes with it. Look, there’s some people that hate it, that don’t want to go. And there’s some people that love it and want to go as many times as they can. I guess it’s just something that some people are lucky to experience more than others.

Churchill:

Okay. I get that. So it sounds like it’s a bit like maybe an athlete training for a race, and then when you get to compete, then that’s the pinnacle of all the training. And so for, you being deployed is kind of the pinnacle of the training, even though obviously you’re taking on a lot more personal risk as well.

Luke:

Yeah, pretty much. It’s putting everything into place that you’ve learnt, being trained, your experience because usually when we go… well, definitely for our trade, when we get deployed over there, only a very small team. So the team has to be very skilled and they have to get along and all that stuff. So it’s pretty much that. And there’s a lot of people that don’t get to experience it too, unfortunately for one reason or another, but I was lucky to experience it and it was good. And obviously back then too, probably one of the biggest factors is obviously I was single, I didn’t have a family or I didn’t have anything holding me back. It was just one of them things that was exciting and I wanted to get out and do.

Luke:

And obviously now in hindsight I’ve had that experience, it’s all well and good, but it’s something that unless I was… Well, I can’t because of medical reasons, but if I didn’t have medical [inaudible 00:10:25], unless I was forced to do it, I probably wouldn’t do it because having a family with small children and stuff now it’s just not something that I want to go and do.

Churchill:

How many kids have you got?

Luke:

Two.

Churchill:

Nice. How old are they?

Luke:

Four and two.

Churchill:

Oh, wow. So you’re well and truly in the thick of it.

Luke:

Yeah.

Churchill:

Nice.

Luke:

So for me, it’s got to that point now where, like I said before, I’ve experienced pretty much everything there is to do within my trade, my career and the air force that, especially with the small kids. And the other downside to being in defense is obviously you get forced to move around every three to four years. So I’m pretty much fed up with that, I’ve had enough. I want to move somewhere. I want to set up, get our house and just settle down and not have to worry about moving.

Churchill:

So while you’re working for defense, are you provided with defense housing? Is that how it works?

Luke:

Yeah. So we’re provided with service residence and if they can’t provide us with a suitable house, then they just give us an allowance, which essentially pays it at the same rate. So whether we’ve got a service residence or we are renting privately, we’re still getting a subsidized rate.

Churchill:

And so I guess that a lifestyle must be challenging for your wife?

Luke:

Well, she used to be in, so she understands. She’s only just recently discharged 12 months ago, I think it is now. 12, 13 months. So she was in for well over 10 years, so she understands the whole thing. But obviously now, it’s a bit more difficult now because she’s doing uni study and she’s trying to go off on her own career path now. So that’s another reason why we want to settle down and stay in one spot, so she can start up her career and start progressing, and the kids can go in school and they don’t have to be disturbed.

Churchill:

For sure. So did your wife look at RPL as well?

Luke:

She did, yeah. She went down the same path and she got a few things out of it.

Churchill:

Great.

Luke:

Not as much because obviously within her line of work, she was not a technical trade and she didn’t get pretty much any qualifications, so it was just all generic stuff. But she went down the same path and she was one of the reasons, not one of the reasons, but she was one of the people that put me onto it as well.

Churchill:

Okay. So that was going to be my next question. How did you discover Recognition of Prior Learning with Churchill Education?

Luke:

So it was obviously through my partner, but also too, seeing her whole discharge process, as well as many other very close friends that have discharged. And I was seeing a common theme across the whole board is that a lot of them, they had a fair amount of notice, but a lot of them happened really quickly, and pretty much everything was left to the last minute and a lot of stuff got missed. So when I had the opportunity and the chance to do it, as well as a bit of obviously spare cash to go through with it, I said, “Look, I’m just going to do this now,” because for whatever reason, six or 12 months down the track, if I don’t make it to my 20 years or something, I want to be prepared for my next career path, whatever that may be.

Luke:

So I think for me it was just other people’s experience, and then my partner. And also, the defense is pretty good. So I attended a couple of transition seminars obviously for my partner, but also one for myself, just to get a bit of an insight and kickstart my thought process on how I would see or plan my exit from defense. And it definitely was a thing that come up, be prepared and try and get a lot of stuff done earlier rather than later, because more often than not, it comes around pretty quick like I said before, and some people, it comes around even quicker than others and a few months down the track, you find yourself out of a job. And once you finish, done and dusted, and you’re booted out the door, that’s it, you’re done. It’s a hell of a lot harder to access all the services and stuff and get everything in order when you’re on the other side of the fence.

Churchill:

Yeah. Definitely. We talk a lot with our defense audience about lock out basically. So once you leave then you can’t get access to all of your work samples and all that evidence that could map over to qualifications. So definitely a smart way to do it, with a bit of foresight and while you’re still in.

Luke:

Yeah.

Churchill:

For sure. Just one more question about that. So the transition seminars, are they useful?

Luke:

Very, very useful. Well, from my point of view I was going for my partner initially, so I was going with her, but even just going for her as she was trying to figure out some of her stuff, there was things there that just… A light bulb went on in my head and I’ve gone, “Oh, I should remember that. I should do that.” And then obviously went back another, I think it was a year or might have been two years later. Oh, sorry. No, 12 months later, and I did another one and it’s one of them things, there’s just so many things to think about that you can’t remember it all at once, so it’s good just to go to them, get all the information. You can put together a really good plan and you get to speak to people there from all the different companies and industries that deal with that stuff.

Luke:

So you can speak to the specialists, whether it’s anything to do with finances, super, people from recruiting, jobs, you name it, all this other stuff. I found it really good. I’ll definitely probably within my next three years, I’ll definitely go to another one or two and definitely just before I finish up. But very good resource and something worthwhile that I’ll recommend anyone does.

Churchill:

Great. So how did your partner initially hear about Churchill education in the beginning then if that was how you heard about it?

Luke:

Well, I believe for her, obviously she did a bit of research and she obviously went to the transition seminar and she had a look and basically, she was looking to see what she could get out of defense itself because we can get RPL through defense and it usually doesn’t cost us anything, but there’s a obviously a limited scope of available qualifications and stuff you can get. So she did that initially, obviously, and then through the transition seminar and obviously just jumping on the internet, Google searches and that, she obviously found all the different relevant companies and then just had a bit of a look through and decided what would be appropriate for her, what would be useful? She made a couple of [inaudible 00:18:40] and away way she went so great.

Churchill:

Great. So Google?

Luke:

Pretty much, yeah, your friend Google and the internet. I guess for her too, obviously word of mouth and stuff.

Churchill:

Okay. So has she heard of [crosstalk 00:18:58].

Luke:

It’s that thing, once one person does it and leaves and highly recommends it, then it spreads like wildfire. It can quickly make the rounds and everyone knows about it.

Churchill:

Yeah. Right. And so Luke, just tell me about how was your experience going through the Recognition of Prior Learning process?

Luke:

Look, I found it a hell of a lot easier than I was expecting it to be. I was not nervous about it, but I was very unsure. I didn’t really understand how the process would work. I thought there would be a lot of official testing or I don’t know, meetings with people or even going to local unis or TAFEs or something like that, just to have a rundown and see what you would be eligible for.

Luke:

But once I got on and did a bit of research and had a look myself, the process was really simple. It was a quick, simple process, everything was straightforward. There was obviously quite a few bits of documents and pieces of information that had to be found, but it was nothing that was too hard to do or it didn’t take too much effort.

Churchill:

Great, and you ended with a diploma of project management and a diploma of government. Didn’t you?

Luke:

Yes.

Churchill:

That’s great.

Luke:

So it’s obviously standing back now and looking from the whole process from go to whoa, I’m actually quite surprised that I didn’t it any earlier or I didn’t do it maybe a few years ago. Who knows where I’d end up now? But no, I was very happy with it. I’m really glad I did it. I’ve got that stuff there now.

Churchill:

So was it a good feeling to hear back and to get confirmation that you were eligible for those qualifications?

Luke:

Oh, for sure. It was the biggest surprise. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I submitted everything and put it through and I thought, look, if I get one or two recommendations or even three things, I thought, I’ll be happy. I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward. I wasn’t sure. But then I got the email back and said, “Oh, you can have this, this, this and this.” And I done the whole list, and I was like, I couldn’t believe it.

Churchill:

That must have felt really good. All of those years of experience and then obviously, that’s been your whole career world, hasn’t it? And so on the other side in the civilian world, it must be good to know that you… I mean, these qualifications are like a gateway that translate what you’ve done within defense to civilian employers, because all of us on the civilian side of the fence, obviously we don’t understand what goes on or how the roles or the duties really function in defense. So these qualifications are such a good bridge basically, between the two worlds.

Luke:

Yeah, for sure. And it’s funny because I suppose we get into how we do business our training, our work lifestyle and stuff like that, and I guess it just becomes normal to us. We don’t realize that maybe until you start speaking to other people or you engage with other people in the same industry outside and you realize, okay, they’re employed as a heavy vehicle mechanic, but that’s all they do. They just work on trucks all day, every day. They might do some safety courses here or whatever is actually required by law, but the amount of extra training that we get in here, you don’t actually realize till you stand back and have a look and go, “Wow.”

Luke:

We do a hell of a lot of training. We’re not only employed just to do our core role, whatever trade that may be. But we do all these other things, security, safety, management, project management, all this other stuff that’s encompassed within our day-to-day life. But yeah, I guess it just becomes the norm to us and we don’t realize that that’s not what people do outside. And then when you sit down and go, “All right, I’ve been doing this for quite a number of years now. I’d like to obviously leave and get a job on the outside. What could I do?” You go, “Well, I’ve been a mechanic in the air force first 16, 17 years now. Would I be good at doing anything else? Can I put all of this stuff together and give me another pathway or another clear path to heading on to that next chapter?”

Churchill:

Yeah. It’s so important because you’re right, you do do so much more than just what your trade is in all those years. So it’s definitely great to have something to show for all that when the time comes, when you do want to transition to something else.

Luke:

Yeah. No, it’s fantastic. And I suppose the other side of the coin is too, if you didn’t know about that and you did pick a particular career path that you wanted to go down, if that avenue wasn’t available to you, well then you’re obviously going back to uni, you’re going back to TAFE, you’re putting your life on hold again because you’re doing further training, which is great, but then you’ve got to actually pay for the training, do the training before you can actually start working. So that puts a bit of a hold on your plans.

Churchill:

For sure. And other side of that is sometimes you might be studying what you actually already know and can do.

Luke:

Exactly. Yep. You’re just doubling up on what you’ve done in the last 10,15 years or whatever it may be. So it’s good. I’m very happy, like I said before, it set me up. I’m ready to go now. So it’s one more thing I don’t have to worry about now. I can just-

Churchill:

That’s great. So Luke, you mentioned, when I asked you about how it felt to find out that you were eligible for these qualifications, and you said you wished that you had have known about it earlier and who knows where you would have been if you had. So tell me a little bit more about that. Do you think that that would have changed your career plans if you had have known about RPL a bit earlier in your time with RAF?

Luke:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s one of them crystal ball moments, isn’t it? You don’t know what could have happened, but there’s definitely been periods. I know there’s definitely been periods throughout my career where it’s five years, in 10 years in, 15 years in where there’s been periods where I’m like, “All right, I’ve had enough of this. I’d like to go do something else.”

Luke:

But definitely one of the things that tell me back from doing something else is the fact that I was only qualified to do one job, and it’s something that I possibly didn’t want to do when I left the air force because of just obviously the work conditions. We’re working long hours. You’d be making good money and stuff, but I’ve done that for a period of time now. So for me it was, I need to look at doing something different and I need to have some clear career progression, and that’s obviously what would have held me back so [crosstalk 00:27:32].

Churchill:

That’s interesting, isn’t it? I’ve got no doubt that when you reapply for new qualifications, you’ll be eligible for more things. But right now what you’ve got in your hand is diploma of project management and a diploma of government, means that you’ve gone from thinking, “Okay, well if I get out, then I’ll be a heavy vehicle mechanic in the civilian world.” But now you can see that you’ve got the qualifications that evidence your ability to be a project manager, which is a skillset in almost all industries. So the sky’s the limit. Or if you wanted to stay in government and just go into a different department, you’ve got your diploma of government as well. So that just opens up options exponentially, doesn’t it?

Luke:

Yeah, no, it does. And it’s probably not something that obviously earlier on that I was aware of, or it’s definitely on a path that I would have looked upon, but now that I’ve been in this position that I’m in, because the current position I’m in is actually a rank above my rank. So I’m actually in a higher position. So for me now, that leadership and management career path, project management, government. So my plan is to obviously try and get another government job, but I want to be in that middle to upper level of management and progressing along. And everything up until today, it’s all just the piece of the puzzle of falling into place.

Churchill:

Right. Okay. So leadership and management qualification will be definitely on the cards for the future, by the sounds of it.

Luke:

Yeah. I’ve got leadership and management, so I got that through defense.

Churchill:

Okay, good.

Luke:

So that was a freebie, but the other ones obviously have helped me out and honestly, because like I just said then, that’s my vision is hoping to get a government job in whatever other industry or division that is. But if not, anywhere. I’m open to jobs anywhere, as long as it’s within that management style position, and just progressing forward.

Churchill:

Well, it sounds like you and your partner are both really setting yourselves up for a good next chapter of your life. So Luke, I’ll just finish off by asking if you have any advice for other RAF members who might be looking at doing something different in the future.

Luke:

Yeah, for sure. My advice would be exactly what I talked about before is that if they can find out about or they know about it earlier, then it will become a very handy resource because I think, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think on your website, it said you only need to be in defense for two or three years I think, before you can start accessing the RPL process. So it’s a very handy resource and I recommend it to anyone. I suppose it’s just a matter of them trying to… for them to find out about it or just spreading the word because people can be in for… for our trade it’s a minimum of six years. But there’s a lot of trades and jobs that are only four years.

Luke:

So for people to come and get a bit of experience, they might not like the military side of things, but they’ve had that experience then to use their RPL, get a different qualification and move on to a different career path or something, that’s a very handy thing to have and it will help them out so much just because of all the other things we’ve spoken about.

Churchill:

Yeah. And I guess it’s just keeping your options open as well, isn’t it?

Luke:

It is.

Churchill:

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to leave straight away or at all, but it’s just good to have that option, isn’t it?

Luke:

It is. You’ve got your options. Like I was saying before, there’s a few trades and a few jobs within the military as a whole, that people do come in and do, and they leave with nothing. You know what I mean? They might not have any formal qualifications and all of a sudden, for whatever reason, they find themself at the exit and they haven’t got anything to show for that service, that time in the military. And it can be hard for them because they got to start from square one. Whereas if people do a bit of research, get in there and use the RPL to their advantage, that’s just invaluable to everyone. It keeps their options open, and then who knows, they might come in, work in the military and then move on and who knows? They might find another career path or a dream job that they’ve been waiting for that they didn’t even know about.

Churchill:

Yeah, absolutely. Fantastic. Well, Luke, I’m not going to take up any more of your time. Thank you so much for talking to me, really appreciate it. And so basically, the process from here is that I will write this up into a case study and send you a draft, and you can tell me if you want me to change anything or whatever. And then when you’re happy with it, I’ll put it up on our website.

Luke:

Yep. No, that sounds fine.

Churchill:

Awesome.

Luke:

I’m happy to help.

Churchill:

Thank you so much. And look, there’s no rush, but it would be awesome also, if you could send me a photo that I could run with the story. So just something you feel comfortable with, either picture of you on the job or a picture of you doing whatever you enjoy doing or a professional headshot or a family shot or whatever, would be really great.

Luke:

Yep. No, I’ll have a look and see what I can find.

Churchill:

Fantastic. Thanks so much, Luke. Have a great rest of the day and it’ll probably take me a couple of weeks to get back to you with the first draft.

Luke:

Yep. No, that’s fine. No worries.

Churchill:

Great. All right. Thanks a lot, Luke.

Luke:

No worries, see you later.

Churchill:

Okay. Bye.

 

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