Strong foundations

If you want to build a strong nation then you have to build a strong foundation in children

Industrial Design to Early Childhood Education isn't your typical career path. But Ito Rivera isn't your typical TAFE NSW student.

Hailing from the Philippines, Ito began his career with a qualification in Fine Arts, majoring in Industrial Design back in his home country. But two years down this path, working long hours as a project manager, constant high stress levels resulted in a diagnosis of Arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat.

"Then a colleague suggested that I work part-time in a pre-school where her sister was working," said Ito. "I gave it a go and enjoyed the career change. I worked as a pre-school teacher for two years. Sadly, teachers are not paid well in the Philippines so I had to go back to the marketing industry. Then I found out about getting an international qualification through TAFE NSW. In the Philippines, you can teach in a pre-school as long as you have some kind of tertiary degree, regardless of the course. So I grabbed this opportunity with the hope of getting a financially stable job in an industry that I was passionate about."

Growing up in a culture that places a high value on closely knit family ties, Ito already had a solid groundwork of informal child care beneath his feet. At the tender age of eight, he'd been given the responsibility of looking after his younger cousins, something that helped to develop his nurturing and empathic skills and shaped his character. Before too long, educating children and supporting their development just seemed to become the natural thing for him to do.

Ito's study and career journey in Australia so far has been marked with some memorable achievements. One of the high points for him was being named TAFE Illawarra's international student of the year in 2014, an accolade that he was both proud and honoured to receive. Also in 2014 he was asked to be a TAFE NSW ambassador.

As one of the few males in a female-dominated industry, Ito is happy that he's in a position to provide a positive male role model for young children, something that there's still a noticeable shortage of after the mass exodus of men from the sector in the 1990s.

Now with graduation behind him, Ito works at Warilla Child Care Centre in Wollongong as an education leader, but he still nurtures an even more ambitious vision for the future. "I hope to one day have the opportunity to become part of global humanitarian organisations such as UNICEF or World Vision, caring for children across the globe," he said. "Our Philippine national hero Jose Rizal once said that the youth is the future of the nation and I would always believe in that. If you want to build a strong nation then you have to build a strong foundation in children."

Checkout of our many Early Childhood education courses such as the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care (Birth-5)