Short Course helps CEO get back to her roots

Photo of a woman outside with a frangipani plant

An Australian Government subsidised short course gave Sandra the chance to bring her dream closer to reality.

This story was first published on Friday 22 January 2021. If you wish to use this content, please contact to confirm that the information is still current.

When Sandra Gillanders broke her back in a horse riding accident and found herself moving from Tasmania to the Gold Coast hinterland seeking out warmer weather for pain relief, she didn’t imagine it would lead to her moving from senior management in the corporate world back to her family roots in horticulture.

“I was fortunate to be exposed to the horticulture industry and a love of plants from a young age from my parents who had a nursery in Tasmania,” she said.

Sandra says she has discovered that the horticulture industry has wider benefits for everyone’s social and emotional wellbeing, with people finding solace in the garden during the COVID-19 pandemic. Re-greening the environment is also a passion for her.

Sandra had started to explore setting up a small business, growing plants to supply clients in her new home base — the region around the Gold Coast and hinterland.

“I decided to start with a proof of concept to see if I could grow plants and make it a success and then Coronavirus turned up,” she said.

This changed all Sandra’s plans, but instead of seeing it a roadblock, she took up an Australian Government subsidised short course, to build her skills and bring her dream closer to reality.

“I saw the short courses and I thought this is a really good fit as nothing is happening due to coronavirus, I now have the time available and this will help give me the skills to pursue this opportunity when I can.”

Sandra did a Graduate Certificate of Agribusiness at Marcus Oldham College, one of many short courses offered at a subsidised rate by the Australian Government to help people re-skill or up-skill during COVID-19.

Dr Heather Davis, Director of Postgraduate studies at Marcus Oldham College, said many people were taking this opportunity.

"We had a high demand for the subsidised places in our short course, the Graduate Certificate, and the course filled very quickly with people from across Australia seeking to up-skill or retrain to remain competitive in an uncertain job market caused by the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.

“The short course places have quadrupled our student numbers in postgraduate studies this year. Student feedback has been very positive too.” 
Sandra said the course came at the perfect time, fit in with her life, and she was able to remain motivated to complete the course.

The future is looking bright, and she feels she is now well placed to take her small business forward.

“The course definitely made me more job ready. Even though my background is actually in business, I found that the short course gave me a lot of additional skillsets and competencies around commercialisation specific to horticulture.”

Sandra said that if anything, COVID-19 has brought people back to gardening and that the horticulture industry is undergoing a growth that bodes well for the future.

“The marketplace is now viewing what was a non-essential item as an essential item and that means there will be opportunities for businesses like mine.”

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