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Single mums gain more than just a qualification

Two TAFE Queensland students, both single mums of four children, have not only overcome their apprehension of returning to study, but are on track to graduate with a wealth of skills,  knowledge and confidence.

Katrina Chippendale and Steph Nano, classmates at TAFE Queensland’s Bundaberg campus, both enrolled in the entry-level course desiring to improve their computer literacy skills but gained much more than that.

Ms Nano, who left school in Year 8 when she became a mum for the first time, said the thought of starting a new course was daunting, but she was inspired by her own mother, to further her education.

“At the start, I felt really overwhelmed. I’ve been a mum for the past seven years, so being back in a classroom seemed scary, but being at TAFE has been the best experience I’ve had since having children,” Ms Nano said.

“I’ve learnt how to use a computer properly, I can now use excel and do data entry, create marketing material like brochures and I’ve made heaps of friends. Every week I look forward to going to TAFE. Our teacher, Therese, has also been amazing and is so patient, kind-hearted and understanding. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to ask a question, she is always willing and able to help," she continued.

“Since dropping out of school in Year 8, I’ve faced some challenges, but I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my Mum, who’s always been a successful businesswoman, and this course has opened my eyes a lot. When my kids are a bit older and I’m ready to get a job, I know this course will be what makes that process so much easier."

Ms Chippendale, also a single mother of four, said that after focusing on raising her children for more than 20 years, she decided it was time to do something for herself and so enrolled with TAFE Queensland. After completing the units required for her certificate III, she has now started the University of Queensland’s Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) – an enabling course that provides a pathway for those wishing to gain entry to higher education – and said she’d like to go on and gain a qualification in psychology next.

“Before starting at TAFE Queensland, I had no experience with computers or technology, so I really felt like I was throwing myself in the deep end, but it’s been such a great experience and after completing the course, I feel so empowered to go on and achieve more,” Ms Chippendale said.

“You’re surrounded by like-minded people at TAFE, which is so beneficial and I’ve gained much more than a certificate, it’s enabled me to grow my confidence and gain valuable communication skills to set me up for the future too. With everything I’ve been through and have learnt I’d love to go on to study psychology and to work in the mental health space, to support others to navigate and go further in life.

“At first, I actually thought TAFE would be too much. I used to think about furthering my studies when I was 20, but never imagined I’d be doing it at 40 years old. Our teacher, Therese, has been so supportive and always inspired me to keep going though, and when I realised it was achievable I thought, ‘this is brilliant’. I used to hide away from most things in life, but now I’m tackling it," she finished.

Ms Nano said for other young mums or people who are considering a course at TAFE but hesitating to commit, they should feel encouraged to challenge their nerves and give it a go.

“I was so nervous when I first started and thought I’d never be able to stick to it, but I did, and now when I’m not at TAFE I miss it. I’ve enjoyed the course so much and it’s been really rewarding to complete it. Have a look into what you’re passionate about – TAFE has so many different courses – and just go for it. You will surprise yourself,” she said.

Therese Fairbrother, Business Administration Teacher whom both Ms Nano and Ms Chippendale express their high regard for, agreed that both students had grown immensely during their time at TAFE Queensland, which was very rewarding to see.

“Katrina, who has been through some major challenges in her personal life, persevered through the course with success and really blossomed into an informal leader among the students, it’s wonderful to see her now going on to further her studies at University. Steph has also greatly matured during the course and rightly has her sights set on a bright career. Both women have gained so many new skills, in business but also their personal lives and importantly, have also greatly improved their confidence,” Ms Fairbrother said.