Anything is possible
Anything is possible, just ask teenager Melanie Finnigan who is on her way to a
promising career as a dental assistant.
The bright and bubbly 18 year old loves her new job at Portland Laser Dentistry
and Orthodontics, and said the various skills she learned through South West TAFE’s
VCAL program were a big factor in her gaining employment.
Melanie studied VCAL at South West TAFE’s Portland campus and the skills and
confidence she gained while studying at TAFE, enabled her to apply for and secure
a full-time dental assistant traineeship.
“It’s great. It’s really hands on, which I love,” Melanie
She is now completing a Certificate III in Dental Assisting through her employer,
and hopes to upskill in years to come.
“I love what I’m doing now. It’s definitely a career choice. Whether
or not I could become a hygienist or dentist even, that’s much further into
the future. I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment,” she
Her happiness and satisfaction are a far cry from where Melanie found herself about
two years ago, disillusioned and unmotivated to complete her VCE at secondary school.
“I lost all motivation. I could do the work if I wanted to, but I lost all
motivation to do any of it. I didn’t want to do VCE anymore because I knew
I wasn’t going to go to uni. I thought I want to do VCAL, it’s a lot
easier and I don’t need my VCE,” she said.
Melanie didn’t know which career path she wanted to follow, all she knew was
that she needed an alternative to mainstream school. The then 16 year old was finding
the classwork challenging and the learning environment didn’t suit her.
At the recommendation of her cousin, Melanie looked into VCAL through South West
TAFE. The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) program is for young
people who have left school, and want to learn skills to continue their education
and training, or learn skills necessary to pursue a career.
Ready to learn, she enrolled in VCAL intermediate subjects (equivalent to a year
11 school year level) at the Portland campus and flourished under the direction
of her teachers. Melanie said her VCAL teachers encouraged her to reach her potential
and knowing she was a capable student, they were supportive and helped her to achieve
Melanie said one of the best things about studying at TAFE was the adult learning
environment, which had transferred to her current position and enabled her to better
liaise with staff and patients at the clinic.
“I think I’m a lot more mature than people my age and that environment
really helped me. I got on much easier in the workplace because of that maturity,”
“TAFE did make me more confident, because there’s not a lot of people
in the class, you’re getting a lot more one-on-one time with the teacher and
you’re speaking up a lot more. I’m in a similar situation here in the
workplace, it’s a smaller group and I can speak up,” Melanie said.
She liked how the handful of relevant VCAL subjects, such as literacy, numeracy
and work related skills, were taught for a large period of time, rather than in
secondary school where lots of different subjects are “squeezed” into
“At TAFE, you have a good amount of subjects and you spend a good amount of
time on each one, so you’re not trying to keep up with ten different subjects,”
Also beneficial to her learning, was making new friends and learning in a supportive
“It was much more of an adult environment which I liked. It was much more
mature (than school),” Melanie said.
She also enjoyed volunteering within her local community as part of her TAFE VCAL
“TAFE gets you involved a lot more with community projects. We did murals
for the Hub, Clean Up Australia Day and International Women’s Day, whereas
at secondary you wouldn’t do any of that sort of thing,” Melanie said.
Melanie is unsure of what her future would have held, had she not made the move
to South West TAFE.
“I think I would have dropped out of school or maybe stayed in school
because Mum would have made me, but I would have failed and wouldn’t had the
opportunities that I’ve had through VCAL,” she said.
Melanie said she would “absolutely” recommend studying VCAL to other
young people in a similar situation
“I’ve been very lucky. It’s been great, going to TAFE and finding
a good job out of the skills I got from TAFE,” Melanie said.