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Kayla turns her care for others into a career

Studying as an adult isn't easy, but Kayla Bonato found a way to balance her family commitments with changing careers.

But when COVID forced her to close her massage business, she decided to enrol with TAFE Queensland to change careers and work in an industry helping others that offered more certainty.

"I've always wanted to help people in some way and felt this course complemented my previous career. I'd be able to use my existing professional skills to assist people to live their best lives while being flexible around my life commitments and resilient to pandemics," explains Kayla.

Determined to become a carer, she enrolled to study the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing, Home and Community) (CHC33015) in the middle of COVID's restrictions and lockdowns.

"Studying is a big commitment, but TAFE made it easy by providing me with a course structure that accommodated my responsibilities. The combination of in-person classes and online learning facilitated my education through COVID and allowed me to graduate on time," explains Kayla.

Getting back to study wasn't without its challenges for Kayla. With COVID giving rise to online learning, she needed to learn how to attend classes from home quickly.

"I had to get tech-savvy, but making the transition to online classes were my amazing educators – they went above and beyond to cater to everyone's abilities."

"Also helping was the support of my husband, family and my in-laws. I would not have been able to commit to my education without the support of everyone. It took a village to allow me to explore this new adventure, and for that, I'm forever grateful to have such supportive people in my life."

While in class, Kayla would fly under the radar and quietly absorb knowledge from her teachers and classmates. Then, she incorporated everything she'd learned through TAFE into the real world during her placement.

"Working in care facilities alongside real carers brought everything I'd learnt to the surface. When presented with different patients, my knowledge and skills came to the fore, and I could see how my training connects to the real world."

Kayla cites the course's core content and learning about what changes the human body goes through as it ages, coupled with her teachers' real-life experience for helping her to prepare for moving into employment.

"The more I worked in my placement, the more my confidence grew, and soon I was in an informal leadership role with my peers. I would help, support and guide them in group situations, and we were able to conquer the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with being an aged care worker, debriefing each other and growing as a team."

Also helping her prepare were TAFE's facilities, labs, classrooms, industry-standard equipment and simulated patients, which she describes as fantastic for helping her prepare for placement and employment.

"I enjoyed the labs and simulated patients – they're as close to real-life as possible. While nothing can prepare you for everything you'll experience, the teachers made sure to give us the most realistic simulated environments and situations - it made lab days fun."

"I loved learning to use TAFE's industry-standard equipment as a carer and playing the role of patient to understand what it's like to be handled and how to implement techniques to make caring for residents as comfortable, quick and safe as possible," explains Kayla.

After her placement, Kayla discussed her thoughts and experiences with her teacher and felt more confident than ever – something that took her by surprise.

"My teacher saw something in me, and I was encouraged to seek even further education and one day advocate for my peers, my residents and my industry. I took their message on board, and I will continue to do that and make a difference for those who can't do so themselves."

While the course provided Kayla with an excellent baseline knowledge for her chosen career path, her most memorable learning moments came from her teachers sharing their stories and setting her expectations for her new career.

"I came to TAFE with the purpose of studying but left with so much more. TAFE allowed me to build relationships with teachers and classmates to share experiences, build on our knowledge, and create bonds. As a class, we laughed, cringed, and cried together and made lifelong friendships."

Following her graduation, Kayla was fortunate enough to secure a job with the facility she worked at during her placement, where she's thriving under her team's guidance.

"I'm looking forward to gaining as much experience as I can, learning from all my peers on how best to improve the quality of care I provide, while also jumping at any extra training that crosses my path.”

"I don't see myself moving on anytime soon, I love my job, and I love this industry. I walk into work every day ready to help my patients, and I walk out humbled to my core."

"My job makes me genuinely happy because I'm making a small difference in someone else's life, and that's what it's all about, and TAFE Queensland has made this all possible for me."