Nicole Nassar is flying high in her career as an early childhood educator – and she credits Melbourne Polytechnic for her success. Nicole is an educational leader at a long daycare service and says it’s the skills, knowledge and practical experience she gained during her studies that got her to that position.
‘I’ve been in the industry for going on nearly nine years now, and I believe that Melbourne Polytechnic stands out because of the depth of knowledge that you gain from the experience and the placements, and the course structure and the teachers who believe in you,’ she says.
‘The whole experience was just amazing.’
Nicole, who was born and raised in Sweden, moved to the UK and studied art and design with the goal of becoming an interior designer. But after a move to Australia she found herself drawn to working with children, with all their creativity and imagination.
She signed up for the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30113) at the Preston campus, fell in love with the career path, and continued on straight away with the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50113) in 2014.
Nicole secured a job during her placement and spent 5 ½ years at a long daycare service as a lead educator.
"The community was very family-orientated and rather than a workplace it was more like a family," she says. "The relationships there were amazing."
Nicole has moved on to become the educational leader at another service, where she guides and leads 30 staff and sits on interview panels, which has led her to appreciate even more the solid education she received.
Nicole’s come full circle in that now she is in a position to take on Melbourne Polytechnic students on placement, as she once did herself. Students often find employment during placement, before they finish their courses, and Nicole says job prospects are very good in the industry.
"About 85% of students that are either halfway through their course or finish their course will get every job offer," she says. "I have been offered every job position I’ve applied for, thanks to my experience at Melbourne Polytechnic."
"It’s not just university that will give you this type of advantage," she says.
Teachers are in high demand and the Victorian Government is investing $5 billion to fund three-year-old kindergarten places across the state. An additional 6000 trained staff will be required.
There are scholarships, financial incentives, and Free TAFE places to support students.
The entry-level qualification is the Certificate III in of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30113), which runs for six months full-time. It can lead into the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50113), which is 18 months and can provide subject credits toward the Bachelor of Education (Early Years and Primary). Free TAFE places are available for both.
Nicole says the work is very rewarding and there are opportunities to move up the pay scale. She has been able to demonstrate her experience and knowledge during salary negotiations and can see that her next move might be up to the director, in charge of the whole service.
Looking back on her studies, Nicole says, "All of this knowledge and experience is because I’ve come from Melbourne Polytechnic, I’m forever grateful."
Nicole started her early childhood studies as a new arrival in Australia, with English as her third language, like many of her classmates. It was really challenging, but she felt supported and encouraged and appreciated the structure of the course, with tasks broken down to not overwhelm students.
"The teachers were really, really passionate and they put in a lot of love into the teaching," she says. "They never allowed you to fail. They would always be behind you and say 'you can do this!'. You'll definitely walk out of there feeling like you've achieved something great."
Along with the classroom learning, students had a lot of fun with role-plays as children themselves, boxes of resources and challenges to create things, cooking sessions, and even singing nursery rhymes, so students from other countries could learn more about the culture of children in Australia.
So what would Nicole say to someone thinking of doing an early childhood education and care course? "I would say to go in with an open heart and an open mind. At times you may find that it's a lot of work but I always say that nothing great comes easy. It will always be worth it in the end".