The will to change: Why deciding to return to study is tough, but rewardingby Noted
Studying is a transformative experience. It transforms attitudes, it changes work prospects and opens up interesting new pathways. All you have to do is make the jump – and that can be the hardest part.
Unitec campuses are swarming with students who have taken on a programme of study after years in the workforce – often in a totally different occupation. For many it’s about improving their quality of life through higher earning capability or future-proofing themselves in the face of fast-changing employment prospects. For others, it’s meeting the challenge of returning to work after caring for children or family members, or they’re simply looking for a new direction.
The main hurdle for most mature students was first identifying what they wanted out of life and then taking the plunge to enrol in study.
Often it’s the idea of doing something new that’s more intimidating than the reality. It took Jo Maireroa over a decade and a lot of personal sacrifice to begin her studies in Youth Development – an area she had wanted to work in since leaving school at age 16.
She says it was Unitec’s Bridging Education course that gave her the confidence she needed to return to study. Jo then took on a Bachelor of Health and Social Development majoring in Youth Development. As a mother of twin boys and a teenage daughter it was a big effort, but with support from Unitec and her family, Jo made it happen.
It’s a familiar story among mature students at Unitec, returning to study inevitably means a few changes. And it often means major changes. But once the decision is made, you’re not alone. Unitec is very aware of the juggling act its students have to maintain with work, family and study, and offers a range of services to help students manage the challenge.
Campus childcare, practical study support for every student as well as Māori and Pacific study support, and counsellors or Student Advocates are available to discuss any aspect of study – whether programme-related or personal.
The Student Advocates are highly resourceful and have seen it all when it comes to student life – many are past Unitec students themselves.
Above all, Unitec’s flexible study options are key for mature students, who often plan to continue working while studying.
The process of studying is also a little more exciting than many mature students might remember. Unitec’s learning approach of thinking and doing provides the opportunity for students to get out of the lecture theatre so that when they graduate they’ve already had a taste of their chosen industry. Relevant work experience is part of every programme, from certificates through to postgraduate degrees, so the chance for students to earn while they learn is also a real possibility.
Ripeka Page is in her second year studying for a Bachelor of Teaching in Early Childhood Education (ECE), a course constructed as a field-based qualification. Students attend tutorial-style lectures at Unitec two days a week on top of their placements, and work 12 hours each week in a licensed early childhood centre, either on a voluntary or paid basis.
For Ripeka, this was part of the appeal. She started out volunteering at the Kids Domain Early Learning Centre but now works there part-time as a permanent relief teacher. “I chose Unitec because of the work-based experience, because it gives me the opportunity to work within the field and learn alongside other qualified teachers in the profession I’m studying in.”
Importantly, it meant that she could earn a living while studying. “Being able to work and provide for living costs but work in the area that I’m studying in was one of the reasons I chose to study at Unitec,” Ripeka says.
Unitec is New Zealand’s largest institute of technology, with more than 150 work-oriented programmes and campuses in both Mt. Albert and Waitākere. At Unitec, it’s about offering employment-focused education and the right combination of support to help students transform their lives through study.
Have you been thinking about it?
Apply now for semester two, enrol.unitec.ac.nz.
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