TAFE pathway a great 'taste-test' for higher education

Janneke Zoontjens was struggling to find the right career path and wanted to do something else with her life after feeling like many of the jobs she had worked in would meet a dead end.

The 26-year-old, who was born in New Zealand and moved to Ballarat when she was 12, is now in her final year of a Bachelor of Environmental and Conservation Science degree.

Leaving secondary school when she was 16 after completing Year 10, Janneke entered the workforce but struggled to find a fulfilling job.

She began her search for a different career by looking for courses that might give her better job prospects and fit in with her busy working schedule. Janneke landed on a Certificate III of Conservation of Land Management with Federation TAFE.

She thought the course looked interesting and gave it a go. Enjoying the course and content, she completed a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management shortly after completing the Certificate III.

"The thought of waking up every morning excited to go to work because I love my job and my work actively makes the world a better place is what motivates me."

Enrolling in TAFE meant that Janneke, who says her priorities are her family and friends, could support herself around her three-day study workload. She was not eligible for a student allowance or study loans as she had not then acquired her Australian citizenship, making work a top priority. Without an ATAR meant Janneke worked her way into university through TAFE.

"This highlights how important programs like the Pathways program are. They allow people like me whose life didn't always run perfectly smoothly to access education they might otherwise have been excluded from."

Janneke liked how most days training with TAFE she was working in the field, with "TAFE especially good for hands-on job skills" and said she felt lucky she could go through a pathway to university.

The Certificate gave her skills in all aspects of conservation and environmental science, including conserving native flora and fauna, restoring degraded natural areas and caring for and preserving high-quality areas, sustainability and climate change, managing fire in the landscape, managing water quality and more.

She described her experience with TAFE and university as giving her more real-world practical skills in the last four years than throughout her earlier education.

Highlights from her time at Federation TAFE include the Phascogale Trapping Program, which is run with Parks Victoria and trips to Nanya Station, a desert conservation area in southwest NSW.

She did not feel that things were significantly harder at university, with the TAFE courses preparing her for the next chapter of her education.

Janneke is keen to work as a Ranger, Environmental Officer, or a similar role. She has also considered continuing her training and enrolling in a Geographic Information Systems course to become a GIS analyst. The options and opportunities are far-ranging due to the skills she has acquired with Federation.

Janneke is also applying for graduate programs with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, among others, to jumpstart into a great job.

"It's definitely worth giving it a shot, especially beginning with a TAFE course that could lead to further study at university. That way, you can get a 'taste-test' to see if that field or industry is for you."

Janneke urges others who are considering study to consider a TAFE-to-higher education pathway.

"If I can do it, anyone can. You just need a little determination."

To read more about TAFE pathways in conservation, check out Federation's website.

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