With the early childhood education and childcare sector expected to increase 6%, migrant Rowena Acnam leverages on her flair for care through the TAFE NSW mature-aged worker scholarship.
An engineer by trade in the Philippines, Mrs Acnam relocated to Riyadh Saudi Arabia, Jeddah and Bahrain before settling on migrating to Australia with her family. While living in Saudi Arabia, she found that she was unable access employment in the engineering field due to restrictions in place that prevented women from working in traditionally male dominated industries.
“I decided to give up my engineering career; my young boys and I followed my husband from the Philippines to Saudi Arabia, Jeddah and Bahrain, wherever my husband was working.”
“In Saudi Arabia, women were not allowed to work in manufacturing plants or any other places like that.”
“So, when my eldest son started to go to school, I met a lot of other Filipino parents who suggested they worked at either hospitals or schools,” Mrs Acnam said.
Australian Labour Market Insights employment projections has forecast the early childhood education and childcare sector is set to grow 6% over a five-year period. To get formal qualifications to work in early childhood, Mrs Acnam began her formal study, by enrolling in a TAFE NSW Certificate IV in Children’s Services (Outside School Hours Care) in 2013, shortly after the family attained permanent resident status.
“The teachers at TAFE NSW are helpful and make you feel like you can finish your course because they are in your corner,” Mrs Acnam said.
“It is uplifting.”
In 2022, Mrs Acnam was able to secure a TAFE NSW Mature Aged Worker Scholarship, which enabled her to leverage on her natural talent for teaching and early education.
“My teacher said, ‘I’ve seen your work and I have no doubt with you’.”
“The scholarship has been super helpful, without it, maybe I would still be deciding whether to study the Certificate III I have now completed that will enable me to continue on to a diploma.”
“Everything I’ve learned in the course, I am applying it at work now,” Mrs Acnam said.
According to Lynn Clarke, Early Childhood Course Coordinator at TAFE NSW Glendale, students who embark on childcare courses put their learning into practice through work placement which often leads to full-time employment.
“They are able to connect with community, experience and work as part of a team.”
“Work placement is an excellent opportunity for students to practice their skills and demonstrate the knowledge they have gained in the classroom.”
“It is an amazing part of a teacher’s role to observe the growth in confidence and knowledge of our students when they are on work placement,” Ms Clarke said.
After discovering a new passion for early childhood development, Mrs Acnam worked on a new career pathway by volunteering at her sons’ primary school. She helped-out at the canteen, during swimming carnival, and the library when the Acnam family first settled in Australia.
“I loved volunteering and became more familiar with the Australian accent because for me it was a bit different,” Mrs Acnam said.
“Then one of the teachers told me I was good with the children, and suggested why not study early childhood?”