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Literacy program provides lifechanging opportunities

Sarah Richardson and Georgia Kenniff's journeys shine a light on the value of literacy skills and the power they have to change lives.

With COVID-19 shaping the future of the workforce, skilled workers will play a vital role in our country’s economic recovery. But according to 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics data, approximately 44 per cent of Australians read at a year 10 or lower level of literacy – an attribute that can not only impact day-to-day life, but also restrict the ability to access to higher education and ultimately limit career options.

For Gympie mother-of-two Sarah Richardson, the desire to return to study and pursue a more fulfilling career was what fuelled her decision to enrol in the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program at TAFE Queensland’s Gympie campus. Though she has experience working in hospitality prior to having children, Ms Richardson wanted to pursue something she is more passionate about upon her return to the workforce.

“I had worked in the servery of an aged care facility before and had found a passion for working with the elderly and helping them, but I wasn’t exactly sure what route to go down,” Ms Richardson said.

“I wanted to improve my English and maths levels and get ready to do the course because I’d only completed year 10, so ParentsNext helped me get into the program – I’d heard about the TPP (Tertiary Preparation Pathway) program but they recommended this would be a good starter for me.”

The SEE program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and provides eligible job seekers with up to 650 hours of free language, literacy and numeracy training.

TAFE Queensland delivers the SEE program in communities across the state, offering locals the opportunity to improve their employability and set themselves on the path to a successful career with practical skills that are tailored to participants’ abilities, goals and interests. Participants are then able to pathway into a course with TAFE Queensland, completing the units they need to gain a qualification while receiving continued literacy support.

Through the SEE program Ms Richardson, who has greater difficulty learning due to dyslexia, gained the confidence to enrol in a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) (CHC33015), which she completed in July before securing employment with local aged care home, Japara Gympie.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am without it (the SEE program). I struggled trying to teach my kids with their homework and stuff, but this has helped me become more confident,” Ms Richardson said.

“A lot of things are electronic these days and I wasn’t very good at that sort of thing. But through the SEE program, I’ve learned how to use tablets and computers, which has helped with the job because everything is stored digitally.”

“It was very daunting (returning to study), but hearing the feedback from everybody and that they’re happy with my work is quite uplifting – it’s like, ‘yes, I’ve still got it’.”

Ms Richardson said she plans to eventually return to study in the future with the aim of becoming a physio or occupational therapist, but said she is loving her new career caring for the region’s elderly.

“I love working with the residents and hearing their stories; they’ve lived life and have something to tell. It’s so nice getting to know them and support them, and I just want to bring a smile to their faces,” she said.

“In the future I would to help with more mobility and work one-on-one with them a bit more.”

Seventeen-year-old Gympie local Georgia Kenniff has also benefitted from participation in the SEE program, gaining a head-start in her career in the process.

Miss Kenniff knew she wanted to be a teacher or early childhood educator from a young age, but was struggling in school. So when one of her teachers suggested a different approach to achieving her goal, she jumped at the chance.

“My teacher was a bit concerned with how I was going and he encouraged me to talk to TAFE Queensland and see if there was a course that suited me, so that I’d be doing something I enjoy,” Miss Kenniff said.

After participating in the SEE program, Miss Kenniff enrolled in a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30113), and with the support of the course's teachers, completed her qualification in June. She has since been offered a role with a local childcare centre and is looking forward to starting her dream career.

“I liked that the trainers were really supportive with everything and we could take it at our own pace,” Miss Kenniff said.

“I think it’s really important for people to be able to enrol in something they really want to do and better their skills so they can achieve their goals.”

The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.