What motivates a 25 year old single mum to take on the challenge of study and a major change to her life and career?
Michelle Lovegrove is another success story from the South Coast Colleges/UOW Pathways to Nursing program. Facing just such challenges Michelle explained, “After finishing year 12, I never really settled on something I really wanted to do. I worked casually in retail and hospitality, and had my first daughter when I was 19. Then my Nan got breast cancer, and I suddenly saw the complications and difficulties as I observed nurses and doctors at work in the hospital. Now I have seen it all from both sides and realised the good and the bad. I want to be the best.”
Michelle’s biggest challenge was balancing a course and work around two small children. “The class times (3 days a week 9-3pm) fit in perfectly with the girls and the face to face classes were very focused on completing the majority of our work during class time.”
“Studying at South Coast Careers College was great. The mixture of ages in our class brought different personalities and perspectives to the table. Our teacher, Nikki was amazing, so enthusiastic and experienced! My first day of work experience at Opal was nerve wracking but all the staff were super-supportive. I was suddenly putting all my knowledge from study into practice and it felt so natural. And as a bonus, I secured a job at Opal where I am still working.”
“At Uni I love the labs. The support from tutors is wonderful and the atmosphere is relaxed, not stressful like school.”
16 year old Grace is a ball of energy with a bright future. Grace left school in 2014, at the beginning of Year 9 when she was 14 – “school just wasn’t my thing, I felt I could do better”- and continued her study through correspondence to achieve her School Certificate. Grace flew through the 12 month course in 2 months and loved being able to choose the hours and place of study, and the self-directed approach.
In 2014 Grace completed a Certificate III in Business Administration at TAFE, and in 2015 a Certificate IV in Business Administration at South Coast Colleges, which included a University bridging program. This gave her lots of work opportunities and the skills to work and study in a professional environment – “Whatever I become, the business skills will always be invaluable.”
Skip ahead to March 2016, and she is now enrolled at the University of Wollongong Batemans Bay campus studying a Bachelor of Arts – Sociology. “I love the adult learning environment,” she says, “It’s engaging, the discussions are great and you are encouraged to voice your opinions. The mixed age range of students gives you a different perspective. I benefit from older students’ life experiences, and I can teach them my computer skills. People are always surprised when they find out my age.”
Grace suffers from chronic pain, having a rare condition, but has been able to manage it with a positive outlook, a wonderful supportive mum and tutors that helped her manage her study load. “I have been supported all throughout my learning from my Business courses at South Coast Colleges and now at UOW. Even when I had to have surgery during my course, my South Coast Colleges tutor, Colin, stayed in contact with me and I was able to stay on track while recovering.”
“I don’t consider it a disability. I can now manage my pain without medication by budgeting my energy, (Look at Christine Miserandino’s ‘Spoon Theory’) and taking care of myself by resting when I need to.”
What is in the future? “Next year I intend to transfer into Bachelor of Science and Medicine degree at UOW Wollongong where I can eventually study Psychiatry.”
“I would encourage people, especially kids at school, to consider other options because there is always another way to achieve your goals”
Before moving to Batemans Bay from Sydney, Alain’s background was in accounting and admin. Alain made the move when his father fell ill and needed help. It was during that time he decided he should train in Aged Care. He completed a Cert III in Aged Care at South Coast Colleges in 2014. Work experience during the course led to a job at Maranatha.
Alain loves the interaction with residents and particularly enjoys doing activities such as their favourites, hoy and bingo, as well as cards, bowls and taking residents out to the Club. “I enjoy their individual eccentricities, especially some of the dementia people who are really funny”. Of course the job becomes challenging when an individual with whom Alain has built a rapport, passes away. “It’s like something is missing in your day.”
Deciding to broaden his knowledge base, Alain is now studying Cert III in Disabilities (March 2016). remarking that, “Really, this type of work doesn’t differ all that much from working in the Aged Care sector. The aged can also have many disabilities, such as frailty, hearing loss, diminished eyesight, dementia and mental illness, although the younger people have very different needs.”
Alain’s next goal is to move into Mental Health. He is currently working at a Cert IV Mental Health in Peer Work and will complete a Diploma in Mental Health after that. He sees that “ Many of the older people (perhaps as many as 80%) that I deal with may have Mental Health issues – grief, family loss and dementia for example, and that age group comes from a time when Mental Health issues were hidden for fear that they could be “put away”.
Alain has now worked with four different tutors through South Coast Colleges and says “They have all been extremely supportive. It’s because of the work experience that they arranged for me, that I was able to step into a job at Maranatha, then Banksia Lodge.”
Grace completed her year 12 schooling by Distance Education through a Non ATAR program. She then enrolled in the first Business Pathways Program conducted by South Coast Colleges in 2014.
Grace said “I really enjoyed the face to face program as the trainer was always available to answer questions. I was able to develop my computer skills using Microsoft Office programs which prepared me well before commencing university. The bridging program I completed as part of this course at UOW, Bega taught me different writing and referencing skills which has resulted in higher marks for my assignments” During the Business Pathways Program Grace received high achievement awards from The Bega Chamber of Commerce and UOW.
Trainer, Barry Grant encouraged Grace to apply for the Bachelor of Commence in Accounting Degree at UOW, Bega. By completing the Pathways Program Grace was able to obtain direct entry into University and has now completed 1 ½ years”. Grace is now hoping to secure a job locally as a trainee accountant.
Dale also completed a Pathways Program with South Coast Colleges after completing year 10 and trying his hand in Earthwork and Tree Services with a goal to becoming a nurse. During the pathways program Dale enjoyed the team work skills he learnt and liaising with local businesses to complete a real world project.
Dale said “The Pathways program gave me a confidence boost and taught me skills I could relate to any occupation”. Dale was able to gain University entry as a result of the program and has now completed the first year of the Bachelor of Nursing at UOW, Bega and is happy with his results. Dale’s goal is to work as an Emergency Department Nurse.
By completing a Cert IV qualification students of all ages obtain an equivalent ATAR score of 72.5 when applying for University entry which can lead to a range of Degrees in Social Sciences, Nursing, Arts, Finance or Business.
Alena started off her Nursing journey by enrolling in the Cert III & Cert IV Aged Care Pathways program at South Coast Colleges. This led to a bridging program with UOW and finally into the Bachelor of Nursing at the UOW campus in Batemans Bay.
We caught up with Alena at the Surf Beach Surgery where she was completing a clinical placement. Now at the end of her 2nd year of Uni, Alena says she often spends 50-60 hrs in the week on Uni work. Her proudest achievement is maintaining good grades whilst balancing life with 2 children aged 6 & 9. She laughs about the times they are often studying together.
“Why did I choose nursing? I’d had good and bad experiences with nurses and I wanted to make a difference. First of all I thought I wouldn’t enjoy Aged Care but, I keep coming back to it, the passion of my South Coast Colleges tutor was inspirational. She fuelled my passion for caring. “
Alena and her group also found that the experience of bonding in the Aged Care class at South Coast Colleges was one of the highlights of the course, and is something that continues beyond the course completion.
“Once I become an RN, there is no cap on my future. There are so many different options open to me – doctors’ surgeries, hospital wards, mental health, pathology, etc. I want to stay local helping people and making a difference”.