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After finding herself suddenly unemployed at the age of 57, Lissa McCallum used her time in lockdown to complete a TAFE Queensland skill set and develop the confidence she needed to embark upon a new career.

For 34 years, Lissa worked as a primary school teacher until in she was made redundant in 2018. Losing her job came as quite a shock, but that was nothing compared to the challenges of trying to find work again for the first time in decades.

"I soon discovered how competitive the job market was, and that I needed to channel my skills and knowledge in a different direction in order to succeed," Lissa said.

After 18 months of trying unsuccessfully to secure a new role, Lissa chose to use her time in isolation to upskill and turn uncertainty into opportunity. She decided to take a chance, try something different, and learn new skills in retail and customer service by completing an online skill set during the COVID-19 lockdown.

"I decided to embark on the Basic Customer Engagement Skill Set (BSBSS00034), as it was a bit of a departure from my previous roles and experience, and I thought it might assist in securing a job in that area," she said.

While the course prepared Lissa with valuable job-ready skills, its real benefit was far more impactful.

"The training gave me the opportunity to learn some new skills, and was also a lifesaver for my emotional wellbeing, giving me a focus and goal to work towards after 18 months of lacking any direction as to where I was going and feeling quite obsolete," she continued.

Lissa quickly discovered that online learning suited her lifestyle while still allowing her to get the support she needed.

"I found the training to be flexible around my life and other commitments, as it was all delivered online, allowing me to access tutorials at any time," Lissa said.

"It took a while to navigate my way through the requirements, but my teacher was very helpful, and no question I had was too silly or too much trouble," she said.

After successfully completing her course, Lissa started to feel more confident of herself and her future career prospects.

"I felt a great sense of achievement when I completed the skill set — crucial in growing my self-esteem, which had taken a bit of a battering over the 18 months prior. It gave me the confidence to apply for positions in areas traditionally out of my sphere of expertise," Lissa said.

Using her new-found confidence and skills, Lissa went on to gain employment at a plant tissue culture laboratory, propagating and preparing plants for wholesale.

"I get great satisfaction out of this work, and although it's very different to my previous role, I have less stress and worry," she said.

It's a sentiment she echoes when reflecting on her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would hope we've learned to appreciate the simple things in life, and to remember what’s important. If we can all become more tolerant, resilient, and kinder, then all is not lost," Lissa said.

For Lissa at least, the pandemic provided an opportunity for her to turn uncertainty into opportunity and put her career back on a new track.

"I would recommend this training if you're considering a change in career, have suddenly found yourself out of a job, or are looking to upskill in any way. The training is interesting, challenging, and relevant to today’s world," she said.

"It's never too late to make a change."

As the state’s largest and most experienced provider of vocational education and training (VET), TAFE Queensland is playing a critical role in Queensland’s recovery from the pandemic.

Skill sets like Lissa's were developed in close consultation with both industry and government to provide Queenslanders with valuable technical, digital and soft skills to retrain in areas of high demand.

These skill sets are fully subsidised by the Queensland Government and are available to Queensland residents who have been impacted by COVID-19.


For more information about how TAFE Queensland can help you retrain or reskill through the pandemic, call 1300 308 233 or visit our COVID-19 response page.

More about TAFE Queensland's COVID-19 response

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