Back to school

March 1, 2018

Back to school

Do you remember your first day of school? How about your first day of university or TAFE? While higher education may seem like a lifetime ago for many of us, an increasing number of people are furthering their studies later in life.

When I was 15, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and it was a desire which only grew stronger as I entered my university years. Being in an environment catering to my dreams, I flourished and I strove for success.

But not everyone is as explicitly certain on their career goals at such a young age – goodness I know some people who, in their adult life, still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

They say most people will have five careers in their lifetime, which explains why the number of mature-age students attending uni or TAFE increases each year.

In the last financial year, 5680 mature-age (over the age of 24) students started TAFE studies at Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Nambour and Sunshine Coast Health Institute campuses, with mechanical and industrial engineering and technology, general education programs, and human welfare studies and services the most popular fields of study.

In the last three years, mature-age students account for just under two thirds of TAFE Queensland’s East Coast Region (Sunshine Coast to Bundaberg) and year-on-year, the Sunshine Coast makes up half of East Coast’s entire mature age student population.

I know that I still have 20 to 30 or more years of working to do, so I look forward to completing my study and getting into a new career.”

Meanwhile, at the University of the Sunshine Coast, 5770 mature-age students (aged 21 or over) enrolled in undergraduate degrees in 2017, making up 55 per cent of their total undergraduate enrolment, with the top five degrees being nursing science, primary education, commerce (accounting), paramedic science and social work.

As I attended uni immediately after graduating high school, I often wonder what it would be like to study later in life, and so to find out, I called on a good friend of mine, Faye Coleman, who enrolled at USC when she was 30 years old.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career when I was in high school. All I knew was that I wanted a ‘gap year’ after high school was over, but my parents made me get a full time traineeship,” she says.

“I had no desire to do any more schooling after high school. I then doubted my ability the older I got, so didn’t chase it when I had a fleeting thought about what it would be like to go to university.”

In December 2016, Faye enrolled in law and criminology at USC and was required to complete a tertiary preparation program (TPP) through USC.

“It was a free program that allowed me to gain the ranking I needed to apply for my double degree and get me back into a ‘study’ headspace,” she says.

Faye is completing her five-year course part time, which means it will be 10 years before she is a practicing lawyer. I had to ask – was it a deterrent that you will be in your 40s when you start your career?

“No not at all. It actually encouraged me, as I know that I still have 20 to 30 or more years of working to do, so I look forward to completing my study and getting into a new career,” she says, encouraging anyone else contemplating a career change to just go for it.

“Take the first step, even if it is a TPP course, give it a go. If you have any kind of feeling you might want to try it, then do it!”

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