By the end of Year 10, after years of struggling in the traditional high school system, Sarah Rolland was ready to walk away from her studies. But after discovering TAFE Queensland's Alexandra Hills Senior College she's not only completed her high school studies but is now on her way to becoming a registered nurse.
Like many high school students, Sarah found it difficult to get the support she needed to excel in her studies.
“I found it hard to concentrate at my previous high school because the classes were so big and there were lots of distractions — it was hard to get one-on-one time with teachers because their focus was on helping the whole class, not necessarily the individual,” Sarah said.
Fortunately for Sarah, her mum started investigating other schooling options for her.
“My mum heard about Senior College, we looked into it, had an interview, and before I knew it I was enrolled — it’s the best thing I have ever done," she said.
Sarah credits the Senior College model for helping her turn her education around.
“At TAFE, it’s a mature, adult learning environment where you have to put the effort into your own education. But if you do want to learn, every single teacher here will help you," she said.
Established more than 30 years ago, the TAFE Queensland Senior College offers Year 11 and 12 students the opportunity to complete their high school studies in a flexible, personal and mature learning environment.
Deputy Principal Adrian Wilkinson said the college provides a valuable alternative for students who have fallen through the cracks of the traditional high school system.
“These students still need and deserve a high school education, and our school and teachers are geared towards helping these students achieve success," Mr Wilkinson said.
“Our hope is that every student here feels welcome, regardless of their circumstance, and we will support them in their educational journey. Their success is our success," he said.
The college is the only education facility in Brisbane that allows students to complete their Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) and apply for an Overall Position (OP) alongside practical vocational education and training.
“Last year all of our graduating students achieved a Queensland Certificate of Education and this year our goal is the same," Mr Wilkinson said.
"A large number of these students were on track to drop out of school at the end of Year 10 and now they are excelling and about to graduate,” he said.
Now, Sarah is loving her studies so much that she's decided to pursue her passion for helping others by studying nursing.
"I applied for a dual award that connects a TAFE Queensland Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115) to go straight into the Bachelor of Nursing at QUT. As soon as I finish studying at TAFE, which is a one-year course, I can work as an EN (enrolled nurse)," she said.
It's a solid career choice for the Year 12 student, with Australia's ageing population and increasing mental health diagnoses driving demand for qualified workers.
SEEK data reveals health sector salaries have risen by up to 40 per cent in the past five years as demand outpaces supply. The largest salary growth is in the optical sub-sector followed by dental, pathology, psychology, counselling and social work.
The Hays Jobs Report reveals a shortage of registered nurses in aged care with SEEK data showing the third highest-paying nursing roles are in aged care.
Debbie Blow, Director of the Community Services, Health and Nursing faculty at TAFE Queensland Gold Coast says mental health and aged care are some of the fastest growing areas in the health industry.
"Projecting for the next two decades suggests we are going to double the incidents of dementia and mental health, which creates a whole other set of skills, jobs and opportunities,” Debbie said.
“We want to encourage young people into the sector but it’s also a great opportunity for people who want to change careers,” she said.