For many teenagers, making the leap from high school to full blown adulthood can be a daunting process. From settling on a career to finding a pathway that will get them there, leaving school is often fraught with overwhelming choices that, at the time, can seem make or break.
But for teenagers who participate in TAFE Queensland’s TAFE at School program, this time is one of pure excitement as they seamlessly transition into the workforce or higher level study with confidence in their skills and chosen career paths.
Flaxton resident Jayda Glazebrook is one of countless Sunshine Coast students who have given their career a head start by seizing the opportunity to start their tertiary studies while they are still in school. At just 18 she already has three qualifications under her belt, a job in the industry she loves, and plans to launch her own business.
“It feels amazing to be fully qualified and so far along in my career plans,” Jayda said.
“I’ve already discovered my likes and dislikes in the industry, which has really helped me refine my goals so I know what I’m working towards.”
As a highly active child, Jayda said she was always keen to pursue a career that would allow her to maintain her lifestyle while helping others. But it wasn’t until she attended a school-organised self-defence program at OneHeart Training Academy in Nambour that her career plans began to solidify.
“My mental health played a big role in steering me towards fitness. I had a few personal struggles but when I started boxing and self-defence the classes helped me see my potential and gave me the motivation to really push myself,” Jayda said.
“I had never felt strong or confident or really believed in myself until I had that push. I was able to realise my own strength and I didn’t want to let go of that — so I kept going, even when my school’s program ended.”
Spurred on by her newfound passion, the then 14-year-old Blackall Range Independent School student enrolled in a Certificate II in Sport and Recreation (SIS20115) through the TAFE at School program, which saw her swap one day of school a week to attend class at TAFE Queensland’s Gympie campus.
“I knew I wanted to be involved in fitness so my parents and I looked for ways to get into it. We were a small school and TAFE Queensland could offer more subjects, so it just made sense,” Jayda said.
“It required a bit more commitment and my parents had to help me with travelling to and from class, but it was surreal to finally be taking my first steps into the industry and pursuing my dream career,” she said.
“I really loved that I got to focus on learning on the things I wanted, and be around people that are more mature, like-minded and as passionate about fitness as me.”
After completing her certificate II — for which she received the Gympie Student of the Year Award — Jayda went on to complete a Certificate III in Fitness (SIS30315) at TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus in Year 11, before making the decision to leave school and undertake fulltime study in order to obtain her Certificate IV in Fitness (SIS40215).
“I was doing fine and passing all my subjects at school, but by this stage I knew continuing school wasn’t required to get me to where I wanted to be and I had a clear path that would allow me to get there sooner,” Jayda said.
“It was a shock for my parents at first, but once they were sure I’d thought it through, they were super supportive, which I am so grateful for,” she said.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, being this young and having to knuckle down with my studies and juggle it with work and my social life. It’s taken a lot of discipline. But I love the experiences I've gained through my studies by being able to learn so hands on. I got to do everything I was learning and experience it first-hand rather than just reading it on paper.”
Jayda graduated in July 2020 and for the last 12 months has been working at the same gym that inspired her to kick start her fitness career, OneHeart Training Academy, where she trains clients in the boxing gym and runs self-defence classes for children.
“It’s been fun working with the kids — they’re so full of energy. They come in once a week and we go through games, drills and boxing lessons,” Jayda said.
“I think its super beneficial for people to learn how to defend themselves from a young age. It helps children grow their strength and coordination, and most importantly, builds courage and confidence within themselves.
“I’ve seen all of the kids in my classes grow so much in all aspects of their lives, especially when it comes to their self-esteem, which is so beautiful for both me and their parents to see.”
Jayda’s next big move is to launch her own group fitness training business, with her ultimate goal to eventually start and run her own gym. But for now she is loving her role in helping the Sunshine Coast’s next generation discover their own power.
“Nothing makes me happier than seeing the people I’m training grow and realise their strength, just as I did,” Jayda said.
“I can relate to everyone I work with and when I see them realise their own progress and value, I take a lot of pride in that,” she said.
“One of my boxers even competed in the Australian Lightweight Championships in March, which was so amazing to see.”
Jayda is not alone in her choice to pursue a rewarding career in fitness, with a growing number of Australians looking to follow suit. And despite the initial impact of COVID-19 restrictions, all signs point to a boom in the industry. According to data published by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, employment opportunities for fitness instructors are still forecast to rise by 16.1 per cent from 2019 to 2024.
TAFE Queensland fitness teacher, Brett King attributes the increase to the versatility of the fitness industry and the ability for those in it to take control of their future by working for themselves.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen a shift to a more health conscious culture, which I think COVID-19 has accelerated in many ways. People have either used this time to work on their health, or have gone in the opposite direction and are now seeking assistance to get back on the right track,” Brett said.
“The increase in the use of digital platforms to run exercise sessions, especially during COVID-19 restrictions, has not only made exercise more accessible for busy or vulnerable individuals, but has also highlighted other opportunities fitness instructors can tap into to make their career more sustainable.”
For Jayda, her foray into the fitness industry is well and truly underway. But as her career grows from strength to strength, it’s clear this plucky teenager’s success has only just begun.