Sarah Smart was committed to training to become a childcare worker. She tried twice to get her qualifications, but life and babies got in the way. Then came SPARK. She shares her story.
I tried to do the Certificate III qualification twice, once directly through CIT and once online. I was working casually whilst studying, but when the casual shifts increased and soon became five days a week, I couldn’t manage studying and working.
After having my first son, I tried to complete the Certificate again while I was pregnant with my second child. I tried it through correspondence learning and it was all good, to begin with, but it got difficult not having face-to-face contact and I also had two children to care for whilst also trying to study.
It was really difficult to balance family, study and work, I was close to giving up on the idea of working in early childhood education, so I focused on my family.
Then in 2018, I saw a flyer for the SPARK program and I considered signing up. I was at a crossroads. I didn’t know whether to persevere with childcare or try retail. I decided to try retail but it just wasn’t the right fit for me.
In 2019, after leaving retail I was talking to my job network agency about what direction to take, and they again suggested SPARK. I was apprehensive but made the decision to take a leap of faith and give it a go.
Completing the SPARK program has opened so many doors for me. Through SPARK, I finally reached my goal of completing the Certificate III – I finally had something to my name! It has given me the confidence and the belief in myself that I am capable, and every time I complete a government form I can now tick the box that my highest qualification is a Certificate and it fills me with pride.
After completing SPARK I went straight into the childcare industry as a qualified employee! I spent several years working across different centres and then began questioning the different directions that the qualification could take me.
I found myself at another crossroads, so I had a conversation with Mel from SPARK. We spoke about the possibility of moving into working in schools as a Learning Support Assistant. Mel suggested I complete the Women Return to Work program to gain support with applying for work in the ACT education section.
In 2022 I began working as a Learning Support Assistant across ACT Primary Schools in a casual capacity. Since starting, I have built a strong connection with one school, which has supported me as I have learnt and now offers me regular work. I am hoping it could lead to the possibility of permanency in 2023.
I feel I’m in the right place. I have found what suits me and feel at peace with the path I have followed. What I’m doing now is the right fit for me and my family, and I finally have the balance I have been searching for.
For anyone with similar fears and doubts, SPARK provides flexibility and a huge amount of support. When you are down and out, they are there to lift you up. Towards the end of my eight months with SPARK, I had a family death, and the CIT teachers and SPARK supported me in taking the time I needed. They cared and that makes all the difference. SPARK offers small classes where everyone supports each other with great guidance and great snacks! The other main difference is the ongoing support beyond the program. Mel has continued to reach out to me and I know that if I needed to have a chat she’d let me bend an ear.