For nearly 20 years, Andrew Shea has worked in the vocational education sector, driven by a strong desire to help students meet their goals.
“That focus on making a difference to help individuals meet their aspirations is what drives me,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
“Where you can help a person take that next step toward being more fulfilled in themselves, having greater opportunities through meeting those goals and aspirations for themselves and their families, that’s something that I’m passionate about.”
Shea is CEO of House of Learning, which trades as Builders Academy Australia and CWBTS, and provides nationally accredited qualifications for the building and construction industry.
Throughout his career, he has held senior management positions across a range of post-secondary education providers, and he has personally delivered nationally recognized qualifications to more than 3,000 students. He also spent seven years on the executive team of Simonds Group, the previous owners of House of Learning.
“I focus on helping people be the best they can,” Shea says.
Shea believes in the values of accountability, authenticity and keeping it real and is a regular participant in fundraising initiatives such as the CEO Sleepout.
“Being people-focused and saying what you’re going to do and doing what you say,” he says of his philosophy. “That translates really neatly in education, because you’re having honest conversations, saying, ‘What’s the journey you want to go on? Can we help you?’
“If we can’t, we’ll recommend you somewhere else. If we can, let’s go on that journey together.”
“I guess that’s what I’ve seen is successful over 20 years in different leading education providers – the genuineness to help people launch to something better at the end,” he says. “And reverse engineering everything you do in business from the end goal.”
For more than six years, Shea has been on the board of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia, where he chairs a number of national and state committees.
He explains that in Australia, there are 4.2 million learners a year in vocational education training, and more than 80 percent of this training is done with non-Technical and Further Education (TAFE) providers.
“It’s not recognized widely that outside of that public sector, these independent training providers – and community and enterprise providers – deliver the lion’s share of training through the whole country,” he says.
“So I’m able to impact both internally in our organization, as well as more broadly through the peak body to help build quality outcomes across the sector.”
Shea also spends his time in diversity initiatives. He is an advisory board member with Kowanj Australasia, which works to support African migrants through education and employment programs; and Top 100 Women, which aims to increase the number of women in trades across the sector.
“We’ve got some really strong female ambassadors,” he says. “Over the last three years, we’ve been able to double our female students through promoting stories of those who had effectively navigated some of the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry.”
“Women in trades hasn’t moved significantly in 20 years. It’s still under five percent of overall positions,” he says.
“We’ve increased our female apprentices by a significant number, again through giving opportunities, helping support that culture on building sites as well to make sure that there is that genuineness and authenticity in wanting everyone to be the best they can and removing some of those barriers.”
Shea has had a significant impact in education, resulting in him being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 Australasian Learner Impact Awards.
In addition, he won the Professional Services award at The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards two years in a row, and the registered training organizations he has led have won at the Victorian Training Awards on five occasions.
Shea also shares his wealth of knowledge as a tertiary education conference speaker and consultant.
“My focus is being able to impact the organizations I oversee to generally build a brand, a reputation that can be honored in that commitment to customers,” he says. “I personally gain from knowing I’ve been making a positive impact to help people on that journey.”
After eight years with House of Learning, Shea has now decided to take on a new role as Managing Partner of Tesserent Academy, part of Tesserent, and is excited about the change.
“I am looking forward to continuing to provide high quality vocational education programs, but now as part of one of Australia’s largest cyber security solution providers.”