27 December 2020

How a change of direction helped Jess step out of the shadows and into a job

| Edwina Mason
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Jess Hardman sitting at computer at desk with Andrew Bailey.

“I was shocked my skills were in such demand,” says Jess Hardman of Young, pictured here with her teacher, Andrew Bailey. Photo: Supplied.

A Young mother whose life has been punctuated by hardship has her local TAFE college to thank for allowing her to channel her experience into a rewarding career helping others.

Jess Hardman, 26, endured her share of challenges in the past, but ironically they spawned in her a yearning to help others. In December 2020, she landed her dream role as a recovery and rehabilitation worker.

It was the meat industry where Jess first earned her working stripes until, aged 25, she had a child. It wasn’t long after that when she made the decision to leave an unhealthy relationship and move to Young, in the NSW South West Slopes, with family.

It was in Young where the stars lined up. Her desire to help vulnerable people led her to the local TAFE and enrolment in a Certificate IV Community Services course.

“I’ve always wanted to help others and better understand how people’s brains tick,” says Jess. “I particularly wanted to help people who had experienced disadvantage in their lives that I could relate to.”

The prospect of study made her anxious, but so too was a future with a small child.

“I had a child I needed to provide for and I knew continuing a career in the meat industry wasn’t what I wanted,” says Jess. “Community mental health has always been a passion of mine, and studying at TAFE was a way for me to get my foot in the door.”

It was a well-chosen vocation, with the community services industry the largest employing industry in Australia.

And it has wings – about 1.7 million people work in the sector, and that is expected to grow to 1.9 million by 2024.

As for the trepidation, Jess says when she sat down in class at the local college for the first time, she knew she wasn’t alone. She says she felt emotional hearing the stories of her classmates, many who had also endured hardship in their lives.

“It was a lifechanging experience,” she says.

After graduating in December, Jess found herself courting three job offers, opting for a position in mental health recovery and rehabilitation with Wellways in Young.

“I was shocked my skills were in such demand,” she says.

READ ALSO Bega locals encouraged to reskill under TAFE NSW JobTrainer and Summer Skills programs

Jess now aims to complete a Diploma of Community Services and, later, a degree.

Her teacher, Andrew Bailey, says she came in with no exposure to community services but with a lot of life experiences.

“She was anxious and down on confidence, and to watch her grow into a well-skilled practitioner is the best feeling you can have as a teacher,” he says. “She now has the skills to not just change her own life, but to change the lives of lots of other people.”

Andrew says the community services sector is the biggest boom industry in the Hilltops region and possibly Australia, and TAFE NSW Young is offering a Certificate III, IV and Diploma of Community Services for semester one, 2021.

To find out more about enrolling in a community services course at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01, or visit here.

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