The 39-year-old mum-of-two from Wollongong is a client support worker with BaptistCare HopeStreet, a job she secured after undertaking work placement for her Certificate III in Community Services course in 2019.
Nicole was nervous about studying with TAFE NSW but excelled in the flexible online learning environment offered through TAFE Digital.
“I love everything about TAFE Digital. I learn better online, and I can study when I want at my own pace, without a schedule of set classes, which makes me feel less pressured,” she said.
“I also like to study on my own as it helps me focus on the content and I retain the information better. I love the Facebook forums for support and the TAFE Digital teachers have so much industry experience and provide excellent guidance.”
BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla offers support services for people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and living below the poverty line. The HopeStreet team connects clients to services in mental health and drug and alcohol prevention and offers free amenities such as toilets and showers, music groups, and healthy living groups.
Nicole works with people to provide for their essential needs with food hampers, meals, and clothing.
“I have had some tough personal experiences in my own life and when I needed to reach out for help, I discovered amazing support that I could tap into,” Nicole said.
“That has made me more compassionate as a person and when I was thinking about a new career after being a stay-at-home mum, I knew I wanted to help my community and give that same support to others.”
BaptistCare HopeStreet Manager Dianne Frohmuller said Nicole has been an invaluable addition to the centre’s hard-working team.
“Nicole is an innately kind person and combined with the practical skills she has learnt through TAFE NSW, she has quickly become an integral part of our team and a much-loved member of the HopeStreet family,” Ms Frohmuller said.
“Watching Nicole flourish in her education and be so rewarded through meaningful work has been a joy to witness.”
This year Nicole has continued her education and completed an impressive array of qualifications including a Certificate IV in Community Services and a Diploma of Community Services.
She has also undertaken a Statement of Attainment in Domestic and Family Violence Frontline Skills and a Statement of Attainment in Mental Health for Working with Forced Migrants, and is currently studying a Diploma of Mental Health.
“I just love the content of what I’m learning – that’s why I keep enrolling!” Nicole said.
“The courses are very practical – what I’m learning I put into practice at work daily when I’m talking with people and interacting. And TAFE NSW really caters to all ages and education levels – as a mature-aged student there were no barriers for me; it felt very accessible.”
In June 2021, the National Skills Commission produced the latest Skills Priority List to look at skills shortages in the Australian labour market, predicting strong future demand for community sector workers.
Even though she has only been working in the community services sector since 2019, Nicole says she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I always wanted to be out working in the community and I love helping and empowering people – it’s a great feeling and very rewarding,” she said.
“We don’t even wear uniforms to work because we don’t want to appear superior to the people we support. Giving people a safe space to be themselves, to be comfortable, to be respected and not judged is very powerful for all of us at HopeStreet. There is an incredible sense of connection and community.”