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It’s not just prestigious universities and the likes of NIDA that can boast about their alumni – plenty of TAFE graduates have gone on to glory.

Believe it or not, many of the people you see on TV or the front page of the newspaper have trade qualifications. Paul Keating attended Belmore and Sydney Technical Colleges for a couple of years after leaving school at 15. Supermodel Jennifer Hawkins, champion rugby league player Kurt Gidley, Michelin-starred chef Brett Graham and Screaming Jets guitarist Grant Walmsley are all proud graduates of Hunter TAFE in NSW. And mining magnate Nathan Tinkler qualified as an electrician at nearby Muswellbrook TAFE. George Calombaris and Curtis Stone are both proud products of Melbourne’s Box Hill Institute of TAFE, as is AFL player turned commentator Matthew Richardson.

Here are two inspiring tales of ambitious Australians who’ve used what they learnt at TAFE as a springboard to fame and fortune.

Chris Cheney: After teaching himself to play guitar at age six by listening to AC/DC tapes over and over again, Chris Cheney studied jazz at Box Hill Institute of TAFE. Around the same time, the band he was in, The Runaway Boys, went through some personnel changes and morphed into The Living End. The band supported Green Day on their Australian tour in 1996 then went on to be a constant presence on the charts for the next decade and a half with songs such “All Torn Down” and “Wake Up”. The band has toured around the world and Cheney, its main creative force, now lives in Los Angeles.

Alex Perry: Life was anything but glamorous for Alex Perry growing up. The son of working-class migrants who ran takeaway shops, Perry got his big break when he was accepted into East Sydney Technical College. From there he worked as a model’s agent before becoming, arguably, Australia’s most famous fashion designer. The likes of Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado are fans of his clothes and he has appeared on TV shows such as Australia’s Next Top Model, Project Runway Australia, Celebrity MasterChef and Talkin ‘Bout Your Generation.

The stellar careers of Cheney and Perry are proof that choosing a TAFE course that allows you to pursue your passion can be the smartest investment you ever make.

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