Feature Article Return to Adult study
By Evan Papamichael
Today more than ever adults are returning to tertiary study around Australia. Why you may ask? This is due to the rapidly changing workforce. We have seen how the personal computer has revolutionized our life. Forget the handwritten documents and memos which were presented to our boss in the past. Today this is simply unacceptable. One needs to be computer literate not only in word processing but other software packages such as spreadsheets (mathematical calculators and graphs), Database (which sorts and stores vast amounts of data) and PowerPoint (which offers a slide/picture show at a seminar presentation or business meeting).
Remember that we are living in the Information Revolution. If you are not computer literate then you will most probably be left behind. If you do not want to be online or computer literate then you are doomed for poverty and business failure. Whether we like it or not we have to keep updating our skills every five to seven years. Only in this way can we expect to secure continuous employment throughout our career. It makes sense to be cautious, diligent and to strive for academic and economic success throughout our lives for our own prosperity and wellbeing.
What you may ask can I do to participate in this rapidly changing workforce. One suggestion is a TAFE course. The exact relevance of returning to adult study was expressed by Tania Bond, a scientist who qualified in the early 1970s and was strongly advised to learn computers at TAFE to keep her job. Bond not only works in research but presents seminars on medical research. Technology has improved her position considerably.
If you feel weary about heading straight into a tertiary accredited certificate or diploma then why not consider a short course as a stepping stone. About three times a year short courses are offered during day, evening and some weekends. Many are computer oriented from basic word processing to advanced programming. There are even so-called ‘over 55s’ classes. Remember it is never too late to learn computers. People from four to ninety-four years of age are using them.
I was weary about returning to study in my mid-thirties but I persevered. A Computer Business Applications Certificate at Swinburne University TAFE opened me up to a world of knowledge, from basic Word Processing to the more advanced Spreadsheets, PowerPoint and Database. To think that I could not even send an email or surf the internet with confidence until I started the above course, changed my life incredibly.
If you are business minded there are many Accounting and Bookkeeping courses on offer. Just keep in mind that one short course could change your life because it can lead to valuable entry into a TAFE certificate and Diploma. These courses are structured so that if you successfully complete them you can gain entry into a University Degree. At this point you can apply for an Advanced Standing or Credit for previous study at University or RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) at TAFE. One or more well earned pass in a given area can give you such a sigh of relief and confidence.
Before making any decision about which is the right course for you, talk to friends and family to get an idea but more importantly speak to a careers counsellor. They are most helpful when students are unsure as to which avenue to take. Search on the Internet. All tertiary institutions across Australia have their own website. Browse through, click on an area of interest and you are on your way to success.
It is most important that you attend an Open Day at your choice of training. These are widely advertised in the media well before hand. Try and introduce yourself to lecturers. Ask as many useful and beneficial questions as you can. Remember they will be more than willing to help you and do not think that any question is silly or ignorant. These people you are talking to were once in your position. They have a wealth of experience and expertise and are willing to offer any sort of assistance which you want and need.
So you are back at tertiary study. The big question is what do I do now and how am I going to pass? Tania Bond stated that she has three children still living at home and a husband who works abroad as a Sales Representative for ethical drugs. Tania questions how she can juggle family, career and study. I tell her to relax, try her best and stay optimistic.
It is perfectly natural to be a bit nervous and anxious, but just remember that you were only selected for your course because the selection officer deemed you intelligent and capable enough to pass and eventually graduate.
Importantly, one should remember that many tertiary students fail to understand the key issue of time management. In an Arts Degree for example you only have two or three contact hours per week with your tutor or lecturer for each subject. If you only spend twelve hours per week in classes as a full time student this does not mean you can relax and take it easy. All too often many students fall into the trap of taking it easy and falling behind. Students do this because they passed Year 12 and consider themselves geniuses.
The transition to tertiary study from secondary college is a big jump forward. One needs special care and attention for the next two or three years ahead. John Papadopoulos a former undergraduate at University commenced First year Arts but due to immaturity and loss of self-esteem dropped out. He is now working as a manager in retail and has almost completed a Management Diploma at TAFE. Many of us face false starts but take heart as there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
To be successful tertiary students should note the following. Firstly, it is imperative that students attend all classes. Remember if you show initiative and effort your educator will reward you. This could be the difference at the end of semester between getting a Distinction or High Distinction in the case of unforeseen circumstances such as sickness or crisis resulting in a fail.
Your tutorial exercises or assigned tasks each week are there for a purpose. They help you learn with the course. In tutorials you have real contact with professionals (your tutors). Here you can ask intelligent questions and clarify difficult points. Remember that you will get handy exam tips from your lecturer such as what to expect on the final exam. Also during semester an outline will be provided to students as to how essays, assignments and seminar presentations should be submitted, researched and written. All this makes so much of a difference.
We have all heard of the expression “all work and no play makes Jack a dully boy”. Surely you need some relaxation each week. It is easy to make friends at TAFE or University. It is worthwhile to associate with people you can trust and share ideas with. You can help each other with homework, prepare for exams and give a helping hand to one another.
Be careful not to plagiarise one another’s work as this is forbidden, but ask your tutor to what extent you can assist each other in the learning process. Your tutor will be more than happy to advise you.
What makes TAFE studies so important? If you are doing a TAFE course remember that the skills you develop are practical. You are in the hands of educators who are leaders in their Field and have gained a world of knowledge through their years of industry experience. TAFE offers students hands on training. Remember that employers such as businessmen advise TAFE exactly what is required from graduates in the workplace. Students can also return to TAFE periodically at future stages of their career to update their skills. As the employment market changes, so do TAFE courses. If a particular field of employment is no longer relevant or economically viable then it will be replaced by another to suit exactly what employers demand.
So what we have here is a rapidly changing workforce and an interconnection with an ever changing vocational training system such as TAFE. That is why TAFE graduates are so sought after by employers. Namely, because they have so much to offer. The person rewarded at the end is both the employer and employee.
Congratulations! So you have graduated. What do you do now? Today more than every Australia is an employees market. Business and industry of all kind is searching for skilled workers. You now have the golden key to open many doors and strive for economic success, prosperity and happiness.
John Papadopoulos feels that he has a satisfying career through his retail job which has led to a management position. To compliment this achievement his TAFE Diploma has enriched his skills and improved his prospects for promotion and job satisfaction.
Tania Bond tells me that although she will take a long time to finish her computer studies, the effort, pain and time consumption is of benefit to her. Bond states that computers are like learning a new language. But a whole new world of excitement, challenge and enjoyment has opened up to her at TAFE. Most importantly is that the contrast between family, career and study is interlinked in an optimistic way which proves to Tania and to us that life is full of pleasant results.
There are many employment Networks which can assist you. Your University or TAFE career counsellor will have a world of knowledge to offer you and will assist you. Also remember to join your tertiary Alumni at your institution. This will provide you with a lifelong world of contacts through the workforce which you can treasure forever.
Nothing is definite in life as many of us know. Although we may try hard in something we have, success is not always the case. Helen Athas, age 24, states that after completing year 12 she attempted a Drama course at TAFE. Things did not work out. Eventually she dropped out after first semester and was unemployed for several years.
So the question is what to do now? I told her how important office administration is not only along the lines of touch typing but computer literacy, reception, taking shorthand, attending meetings with your boss and therefore being what our modern world calls a PA or personal assistant. What I am trying to establish here is an objective view of TAFE studies. Remember Helen Athas’ first course at TAFE was a disaster. The second course which she completed, was difficult and harder than expected.
Some subjects had to be repeated and even though Athas had passed all subjects she had to work for two months in an office, to qualify. This proved difficult and Athas almost gave up hope. Eventually she was placed at a University for work experience. This was invaluable and enabled Athas to graduate from TAFE.
Unfortunately more unemployment followed. Athas found a contract job in Kew where she had to travel far every day but the money was limited, conditions unsatisfactory and it was evident that there really was not any future here. This shows that a young adult in her 20s faces a problem. Firstly, not knowing which career path to take, facing insecurity and at times failure. Secondly the length of unemployment and an inability to choose and enjoy a satisfying and rewarding career which brings self-esteem, confidence, happiness and prosperity.
It is evident that one must have work experience such as Tania Bond and John Papadopoulos as a stepping stone. TAFE complimented this through study and qualification. The two interviewees above were to some extent success stories but our younger generation such as Athas are facing a dilemma. The problem is that some job seekers are unsure and a bit afraid about career and educational aspirations.