A VET pathway to University and Jobs in Aged Care

Students Alena, Tyler and Lauren get hands on training with a patient sling lift

With education, industry and community partners working together, the Pathways for School Leavers Program has helped VET students in Eurobodalla, South East NSW to gain entry into university and find employment in the aged care sector.

Lyn Eckersley from the local State Training Service Centre summed up the achievements of the Eurobodalla program: ‘This Pathways for School Leavers Program has been a fantastic success in providing disadvantaged young people in a regional area with an attainable pathway to tertiary study and work in a skills shortage sector for which they have a passion’. ‘There has been a lot of interest raised in the community about the program’ said Rhonnie South, Program Leader, Eurobodalla Adult Education Centre.

Developing the Eurobodalla program

Six education, employer and government organisations from the local community collaborated and committed resources to design, implement and evaluate the program. Rhonnie South said that ‘the partners had worked very closely to provide an absolutely fantastic educational opportunity for the youth in our shire. The program was based around structured educational delivery, work placements with local employers and targeted support for students provided by industry and program mentors’.


Eurobodalla Adult Education Centre, State Training Services, Department of Employment, Regional Development Australia – Far South Coast’ Domain Principal Group Aged Care Facility – Batemans Bay, University of Wollongong – Batemans Bay Campus

Selecting participants

Fifteen applicants reached the interview stage and 12 were offered a place in the program. Nicole, one of the students who took up the offer of a place said, ‘I was amazed at the information and support they gave me to apply to the Pathways program which made me even more excited about doing it.’

Training and bridging course

Students studied locally at Eurobodalla AEC and the University of Wollongong campuses both located in Batemans Bay.

At Eurobodalla AEC students completed Certificate III in Aged Care units of competence, followed by a full Certificate IV in Aged Care. Alena, a student in the program spoke highly of the training: ‘The teaching class style is relaxed, it is an adult learning setting. However, it is very supportive and extra assistance can be easily sought if required. The amount I’ve learnt during the course is incredible and something I wouldn’t have imagined, it makes you look at the world differently.’

At the same time, the bridging program delivered by the University of Wollongong enabled students to increase their skills and gain a clear understanding about the options and expectations of studying at university. At the welcome morning tea held by the University for the students who decided to continue onto higher education in the Degree in Nursing, one of the Pathways students, Madeline, commented that she felt very prepared and confident to start her university education having completed the university bridging course as part of the Pathways program.

Work placements

During their training the students put what they’d learnt in the classroom into practice in work placements at local aged care centres, including program partner Domain Principal Group Aged Care Facility in Batemans Bay. Each centre appointed an industry mentor to assist and guide students. The work experience gave the students a chance to get a feel for the workplace challenges and rewards that a career in the aged care industry could provide.

The importance of work placements in the Pathways program is perhaps best summed up by Alena when she reflected on her work placement at The Glen,

‘My passion has been found, the work I do is incredibly rewarding and something I pride myself in’.

Kate, Madeleine, Alena and Nicole on the first day of their nursing degree at the University of Wollongong

Student achievements

The program was a resounding success with nine students successfully completing the training. All of these students are working in the local industry.

On completion of the program, participants are guaranteed entry into the Bachelor of Nursing at the Batemans Bay Campus of the University of Wollongong, which Rhonnie South says was ‘an important component of the program’. So far, four students from the program have commenced their Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Wollongong with another student studying at the University of Canberra. Other participants plan to apply for degree courses in the future as part of their longer-term career plans. For Alena, who gained employment with The Glen Aged Care facility her plans now ‘are to continue work in aged care, gain my registered nurse qualification at university and complete the extra year for midwifery at a later stage, experiencing various roles in the industry first, where there are so many opportunities’.

Without the work of the project partners and the funding of State Training Services, these great outcomes would not have been achieved

Lyn Eckersley

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