Ian Valentine passed away in April this year. He is described by his TAFE teaching mate Ray Cook as ‘A man for Floor Covering and training’ and ‘Good at whatever he set his mind to’ by his son, Peter Valentine.

Ian Valentine was born in Preston, Victoria in 1939. He left school as many young men did during that time, around 15 or so, when his parents were told to ‘get him out of Melbourne.’ His son Peter describes him as a bit of a larrikin, a term of endearment depicting a mischievous but good-hearted person. Despite this he was good at everything he put his mind to, a quality that was to accompany him throughout his life.

And so, fresh out of school, Ian found himself in the Victorian seaside town of Apollo bay where he held several diverse jobs. At times he worked as an aircraft instrument maker; a cray fisherman; in a woolshed; as a milkman and even delivering silk stockings. At one stage he was doing three jobs in the one day. It was during these early years in Apollo Bay that Ian met his wife, Joyce. They moved to Melbourne for a while where their first son Peter was born, then back to Apollo Bay where they had their daughter Julie, and back to Melbourne where their second son, Greg was born.

It was about this time that Ian first got into the flooring industry where he learned the trade with his brother-in-law Bill. At that time Floor Covering was a trade without a qualification. Peter can’t remember a time when his father was not laying carpets, and recalls his Dad making up Axminster carpets in the middle of Caroline Crescent in Blackburn North for his first flooring business, Aaballa. There was a time Ian was in business with someone else and later, laying carpets for others. Needless to say, Ian had a solid foundation for his future career in the training sector.

A change of direction

In 1979 and probably following his brother Neil, who was a carpentry teacher, Ian was appointed to the Melbourne College of Textiles (MCT) as a Floor Covering Installation instructor where he met his mate, Ray Cook. The newly accredited trade course was a first in Australia, beginning in the early 1970’s. In those early days there was no established curriculum or syllabus to work from, just manufacturers standards and guidelines for their products along with the tradesman’s own knowledge and experience in the field. Ray says, “In some part it was a journey of trial and error over our years on the job.”

At the time of Ian’s appointment to the role, the team consisted of six instructors, including Charles Booth; Ray Cook; Ian Valentine; Ron Dunstan; Mike Lawton; John Westerdale and David Ball. Charles; John Doenson (joined TAFE in 1986); Ray; Ian and Ron (left to right) appear in the ‘Reunion” picture. They each brought a variety of skills and strengths in the many different aspects and areas of installation, forming a comprehensive knowledge base. Then in 1980, in conjunction with Industry representatives they began developing the first ever Floor Coverings curriculum for the MCT, a program that was structured to run over three years and concluding with the students’ gaining their Trade Certificate.

Ian took on the initial work, writing and creating the first training workbooks for the course. Developed in a modular format, each module targeted a specific objective or area of installation. These workbooks were produced according to the Australian Standards of the time and were first published for use at the MCT in 1982 following approval by the Industrial Training Commission of Victoria. Ian put tremendous energy into the development of these first workbooks and they have become a standard built upon and used to this day. In fact, in his early 40’s, Ian himself became one of the first graduates of this new qualification.

In addition to writing a number of those early student resources Ian was also at the forefront of many programmes and initiatives at that time. These included night classes for flooring salespersons in measuring and estimating and Australian Standards; obtaining a school bus for field trips to companies such as Armstrong and Victoria Carpets; and live, industry-based projects. Ian also wrote many articles detailing training requirements and education for the trade media and these proved vital for the MCT by furthering awareness of the new programme for the formal accreditation and training of new tradespeople.

Over the years MCT was shifted to Batman College in North Coburg, Victoria, where Ian took charge of organising the setup of the new facility. Another move to a vacant building in Brunswick saw Ian became head of department. During this time Ian worked with the Industrial Training Commission of Victoria to get already experienced installers their Trade Certificate. Ian performed on the job assessments of installers long before outside assessment became the norm and with John Doenson, started the outside assessment of apprentices in conjunction with the Textile Fashion Industry Association (TFIA).

About this time Ray moved to South Australia in 1987 to head up the Marleston College of TAFE’s new program. Over the following years the members of that original team kept in touch and reunited to reminisce whenever the opportunity arose. Ray said, “The reputation we earned, and the friendships formed in those early years has stood us all in good stead throughout the years. I learned a lot from Ian. His enthusiasm and energy for the training and education of students and installers gave me the confidence to undertake the task of setting up a program at TAFE in South Australia; a program built on the solid foundation of our work together all those years ago.”

After TAFE

Ian left TAFE to go out as a private industry consultant and on-site trainer. He would offer professional advice on carpet laying issues, for a time on call with several of the carpet manufacturers. He also consulted for builders seeking advice on floor surfaces throughout Australia. Ian travelled fairly often but did not like being away from home long. Peter recalls his father going to China to look at some carpet at the airport and getting back on a plane the same day to come home.

Peter said, “Dad didn’t know how to retire” and even after giving his consultancy to John Doenson, up until his mid-70’s, Ian would often find himself being picked up by John for some project or other. There was also a time when he kept bees with his brother-in-law Bill. Eventually though, Ian had to give it away and was able to spend more time with his thirteen grand-children and ten great grand-children, who he loved all equally. Through his life, Ian loved playing with cars and there was always an engine being built somewhere. Ford or Holden, it did not matter to Ian and a Ford 302 V8 ended up in a boat Ian and his brother built fifty years ago. The boat, according to Peter is still sitting in the garage. There’s even a $650 MG he got as payment for a job, putting it all back together and that car still runs today.

Asked how he would like to remember him, Peter said, “I envy him. I never met a carpet layer on a site who didn’t know him, partly because both Greg and I are site managers for construction companies. Dad was successful with everything he took his hand to. He was all about getting young people into work, even those who may have had trouble at school. I remember him saying one day that you don’t have to be able to read and write to be a tradesperson, just show me you can do it.” This state of mind led of course to the competency-based training students learn by today.

Ian was a man you could rely on, a family man highly regarded by everyone he came into contact with. It is fair to say that the trade would not be what it is today without Ian Valentine.