My Story: Becoming a real life superhero

Education gives us choices, improves our self-confidence and ensures we are more capable of dealing with life

Jumping into study can be daunting, but when you have been out of the game for 35 years it can be petrifying! Doubts start creeping in, you tell yourself you're not smart enough or you're too old to start all over again. This fear may be robbing you of the career you've always wanted. That's what Patricia McGrath found when she toyed with the idea of heading back to study after a long break from education.

We sat down with the TAFE Illawarra graduate to understand how she plucked up the courage to commit to her career challenge.

Childhood career aspirations

When I was a child I remember wanting to be a superhero. I even designed my costume!

Setting the course

I decided I wanted to help people and began looking into courses that would give me job satisfaction. There was a lot of fear before setting out, fear I wouldn't keep up with the course work or that it would all be too hard. I wanted to ease back in to study, so I enrolled in the CEEW course (Careers Education and Employment for Women) at Wollongong TAFE. It helped build my confidence enough to move on to Communications 1, 2 and 3 and finally in to my career defining courses, a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance and Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability), both at Shellharbour TAFE.


Being a single mother, affordability and time constraints were big concerns. The child friendly study timetable corresponded with school terms, and the fees were within my means. However the biggest factor in choosing TAFE NSW was the qualification and employment potential it gave me.

The CEEW course was my first experience studying at TAFE and it was very positive. I finished school at 15, married at 19 and had four children. I hadn't worked outside of the family home for a very long time; I lacked confidence and direction. The teachers in the CEEW course mentored, encouraged and inspired me to believe in myself and helped me find independence through education.

In fact, I found that same encouragement and inspiration in all of the courses I completed at TAFE. The teachers genuinely care and want to see their students reach their potential.

Where TAFE leads

At TAFE you are required to get ‘on the job' experience, which I completed with Warrigal Care. Seven years later I'm still working with the company! I also work with Interchange Illawarra, giving respite to careers of people with a disability.

I am in a job that I love and I get to live out my childhood dream of being a super hero (but without a fancy red cape). In my role as an Aged Care and Disability Support Worker, I get to help the frail and vulnerable people in our community, just like Superman..

Looking back

Education gives us choices, improves our self-confidence and ensures we are more capable of dealing with life. As a woman who lacked education and had little work experience I procrastinated in making major life choices -afraid- because I did not feel I had the ability to be financially independent and to provide adequately for myself and my family. TAFE gave me the ability to be financially independent and have confidence in myself