He’s an award winner and the zoo wants to keep him there

He’s an award winner and the zoo wants to keep him there

  • Published on Sunday 16 October, 2011
  • 4 min. to read


Recognised as a high quality learning environment, Melbourne Zoo, part of Zoos Victoria, normally provides opportunities for a select number of entry level horticulture apprentices to learn about the wide variety of plants and plantings that only they can provide.

But they are determined not to let one particular horticulture apprentice get away.

Mark Dobbie is employed by MEGT (Australia) for the duration of his apprenticeship and is being trained by Kangan Institute, where he won the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2nd Year Apprentice (Horticulture).

This award-winning second-year apprentice is so good; he should soon complete what is normally a three-year qualification in Parks and Gardens. This is possible due to Kangan Institute Horticulture Department’s flexible training and assessment policy and the government’s competency-based completion program.

Mark knew about apprenticeships even when he was at school. His grandpa started his career as an apprentice flight mechanic and worked on the old TAA Airlines. There was no way Mark was going to sit behind another school desk after he finished secondary school. He knew that he could get straight into work and do on-the-job training with an apprenticeship – and he knew he wanted to work outdoors.

What he loves the most is seeing something he started from the ground up (in every sense of the word) and that takes shape over three to six months.

“I was involved in the earthworks, landscaping, irrigation systems and plantings for the brand new baboon display” explains Mark.
“It’s really great to overhear the public compliment it. And it’s wonderful to see how primates that had been on concrete, now have soil underfoot and plants around them.” This has had its challenges though. The baboons’ enthusiasm for some of the trees has been excessive – to the extent they have ring-barked them.

And there are other unique challenges Mark is facing with Melbourne Zoo. Plants can be trampled by the enthusiastic public, or annihilated by hungry possums. When you work in an animal enclosure, most of the animals need to be segregated – even a tortoise can give a nip. Irrigations systems have to be set up on the outside of an enclosure because primates are pretty good at disassembling it – hey just like Leggo! And there are the challenges of trying to replicate the environments of other countries and regions, but with plants that will tolerate a Melbourne climate.

Mark has some fundamental advice for other young people. He says that being employed through MEGT Group Training provides him with job security. ‘The Group Training experience is a good one, knowing that if you’re in a business that doesn’t have enough work, we can be moved to a different host employer. And if you’re working with a small company, you’ve got the security of a bigger company like MEGT behind you.’ When Prue Leighton makes her regular site visits she checks he is safe in the workplace, that he is being released for training at Kangan Institute and that he is doing work that genuinely contributes to his skills competencies. Like Mark, Prue says this is the best job in the world.

Pictured are Mark Dobbie, the apprentice, Prue Leighton from MEGT and Kerri Mewett from Kangan Institute.