Side-by-side: it's never too late to read and write

It is the season of achievement for students across NSW, and Troy Waugh is among those celebrating a significant learning accomplishment. Leigh Mabin reports.

Two men in front of a hedge. Two men in front of a hedge.
Image: Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways recipient Troy Waugh and Trainer and Assessor Miles Cantwell at Tamworth Community College.

After four months of dedicated study, Tamworth’s Troy Waugh has successfully fulfilled the requirements for a nationally accredited Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways.

Mr Waugh’s decision to return to education was driven by a desire to learn to read and write, and marked the 30-year-old's first time in a classroom in more than a decade.

Despite some nerves, Mr Waugh said the friendly atmosphere at Tamworth Community College meant his return to studying had been a happy experience.

Every Tuesday at 10am, Mr Waugh heads to the college where he is greeted by the friendly faces at reception.

After grabbing a coffee from the kitchen, he goes straight to the classroom to be met by teacher Miles Cantwell.

Mr Cantwell said the flexibility of the Certificate I course from the Foundation Skills Training Package allowed him to tailor lessons to suit individual needs.

“It’s a course that has been quite popular and funded under Smart and Skilled,” he said.

“Once you can read, write, and do your numbers, there are so many job opportunities, it’s ridiculous.”

In the past six weeks, Mr Waugh and Mr Cantwell have focused on 10 minutes of maths before delving into other topics.

“Troy perseveres more, and his confidence has skyrocketed. When he gets stuck, he doesn’t mask it as much now. It’s also had a positive spillover on how he deals with people,” Mr Cantwell said.

Mr Waugh’s commitment to the course has impressed Mr Cantwell, with positive results on his problem-solving abilities in reading, writing, and numeracy.

Despite initial doubts, Mr Waugh has not only completed the course, but continues to improve with each session.

“Come into a local community college – they’re friendly people who’ll support you and help you achieve your goals,” Mr Waugh said.

And Mr Waugh’s learning journey is far from over. He is now preparing to study for a white card.

Research from the VET Student Outcomes – Top 100 Courses report published in November, shows most students, like Mr Waugh, progress to further study after completing foundation skills courses.

Despite sitting on opposite sides of their learning table at Tamworth Community College, Mr Waugh and Mr Cantwell share a side-by-side learning journey, swapping stories, knowledge and experiences.

Mr Waugh emphasised there is also time for activities outside the classroom.

“Even with taking on more study, there’s time to get down to the river to catch a yellow belly or catfish and bring them home to cook them up,” he said.

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