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Ann's new adventure

For Ann McDermid, COVID-19 presented the opportunity to further her education. And, with time on her side, she completed three qualifications in travel and tourism.

After years of working as a carer, Ann decided she needed a change. Armed with a massage therapy qualification, she relocated from Brisbane to live in tropical Cairns where things fell into place for Ann.

"I decided one day that I wanted to move north and work on the boats massaging passengers and that's exactly what happened," Ann said.

"Within four weeks of moving, I had a job with Reef Magic massaging on the pontoon and being a crew member."

"I grew up in a small country farming community, so going from that to being out in this big wide world, out in the ocean, massaging people — I was living the dream!"

Ann's husband noticed she lit up every time she spoke about traveling or showed visiting friends the beauty of Cairns.

"One day, my husband said to me, 'Why don't you do tourism? You seem passionate about it.' I questioned whether or not I could go back to study and he said, 'Of course you can. Of course you can do it.' He gave me that extra push and then I turned up at TAFE."

Ann began studying a Certificate III in Travel (SIT30216) and a Certificate III in Tourism (SIT30116) shortly before COVID-19. Undeterred, Ann chose to look at lockdown as an opportunity, rather than a hindrance.

"When I began my studies, I wasn't very confident with using a computer but Ian, my teacher, said to me, 'Breathe. It's okay. I'm going to help you through it.' And together we did get through it," she said.

"I had amazing work experience opportunities on cruise ships and at tourist attractions across Far North Queensland. It was great to gain that industry insight and hands-on training."

"Then lockdown happened. Our classes were shifted to Zoom for eight weeks or so and that was really challenging. It was so exciting when we were able to return to face-to-face lessons," Ann continued.

"I don't know if I would have succeeded without Ian being such a great teacher. He shared all of his industry experience and interacting with him improved my communication skills."

With two certificate qualifications under her belt and COVID-19 impacting travel, Ann decided to further her studies by enrolling in the Diploma of Travel and Tourism Management (SIT50116).

"Enrolling in the diploma was a no-brainer. I felt that the dual certificate for travel and tourism gave me the skills to apply myself and do the work out in the field, but the diploma would allow me to manage the field."

"I liked the idea of having the knowledge of how everything at a grassroots level works and also having the skills to managing the field as well, so I can play both roles and be a well-rounded team player."

"So I thought, with COVID still around, now is a good time to continue full-time studies and gain management skills."

Ann's dedication to her training, her enthusiasm for the tourism and travel industry, and her willingness to help her classmates doing it tough during lockdown, earned her the Jillian McKenzie Award at graduation. Jillian, a former TAFE Queensland teacher, was a passionate advocate for tourism studies who loved sharing her industry experience with her students. Sadly, Jillian passed away in 2006.

"It really didn't sink in at first. I'm not the type of person who usually gets awards. I had a little bit of a cry when it all sunk in — they were happy tears."

Ann is now working at a tourism information centre and said it's never too late to change careers and pursue something you're passionate about.

"I think that when you invest time into courses and other careers, the skills and knowledge you gain comes with you when you move in another direction. It's a part of you, so it's not like you've wasted time because without that experience you can't move on to new things."

"I have a motto: it's don't complain about not liking your job because the only person who can change that situation is you. Look for that career that gets you jumping out of bed every morning with anticipation to get going."

Ann was eligible to access Certificate 3 Guarantee and Higher Level Skills funding to subsidise the cost of her training.