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Stronger together: TAFE NSW students support each other amidst surge in industry demand

TAFE NSW Murwillumbah

Stronger together: TAFE NSW students support each other amidst surge in industry demand

With NSW recording a surge in demand for community support services in the wake of the pandemic and amidst a rise in the cost of living, TAFE NSW is committed to upskilling students to help meet demand.

The National Skills Commission has forecast an 11% increase in demand for community, youth, and disability service workers over the next three years, driven by an increase in demand for care and support services, particularly in regional NSW

Lifeline has also revealed its highest demand for services on record in 2023, with financial stress impacting all family members. Key issues in the Northern Rivers region were amplified by the floods in 2022, job losses during the pandemic, and the rising cost of living.

Four students from TAFE NSW Murwillumbah have overcome significant challenges, including floods and the pandemic, recently graduating with a Diploma in Community Services. Head Teacher of Community Services, Dom Grenot, acknowledged the support Sherri Gersh, Charlotte Lee, and Karen Strong provided each other during their studies.

“TAFE NSW is focussed on equipping students with essential community services skills so that there is a steady stream of graduates prepared for jobs in this high-demand industry,” Mr Grenot said.

“Sherri, Charlotte, and Karen started their course during 2020 as part of a larger cohort that dwindled as Covid started to develop, and they banded together to withstand the pandemic, Northern Rivers floods, language barriers, and cultural roadblocks.

“The students harnessed the skills they had already learned during their time at TAFE NSW to support each other to complete their course and gain the qualifications they needed to enter the industry at a critical time for our community.” 

The four women have stayed close since graduating and are all employed in the community services sector.

Sherri Gersh, 43, was cake decorating before her desire to work with people drove her to TAFE NSW.

“The Diploma of Community Services has changed how I listen and interact with people in my current role at Momentum Collective. My peers kept me motivated throughout the personal challenges I faced during the floods that hit our region – the support at TAFE NSW is wonderful. I encourage anyone interested in a career in community services to start with this course – it opens so many doors within the industry,” Sherri said.

Charlotte Lee, 27, said TAFE NSW helped her personally and professionally.

“I’m passionate about community and I wanted to enter this industry to advocate for and empower people who are vulnerable. During my time at TAFE NSW, I learned more about myself and how to apply the right techniques and strategies to better support people more holistically,” Charlotte said.

Karen Strong, 63, said TAFE NSW helped further her career.

“I was already working in disability care, and I chose TAFE NSW to help me build on my existing skills and experience. The course has boosted my confidence in my abilities, and I’m now more aware of the impact of trauma and the importance of inclusiveness in community care.

“I felt so accepted and supported during my time at TAFE NSW, and not only have I formed strong industry connections with my peers, but I have also formed lifelong friendships,” Karen said.

Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7921 3756.