Wow! Suzanne starts a big career

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Bookkeeper and Challenger TAFE student Michelle Cherry likes to be prepared. So when this Secret Harbour resident learned that the requirements for lodging BAS statements for her clients would be changing, she set out to update her qualifications.

Michelle has just become one of the first students to complete a Certificate IV in Financial Services (Bookkeeping) at Challenger TAFE, a requirement for becoming a registered BAS Agent under new legislation.

“I chose to do my Certificate IV through Challenger TAFE because I knew I could be sure the course would cover all areas” she said.

“Challenger TAFE is well known and has a good reputation, so my clients will know that my qualifications are real.”

Michelle has been running her bookkeeping business, Impressive Bookkeeping, for two years. She has been working in bookkeeping for 11 years, ever since she started helping out her mum (also a bookkeeper) after finishing Year 10.

Michelle’s bookkeeping experience enabled her to apply for skills recognition for many of the units in the Certificate IV course.

“The process to get Mandurah resident and former student of Challenger TAFE, Suzanne Bourquin, is one of this year’s new university students, and for Suzanne this is a major achievement.

Getting through school wasn’t easy for Suzanne. She found it hard to concentrate and to take it all in. Plus she was a victim of bullying. A challenge for anyone, but especially hard for her, as she had an as yet undiagnosed disability.

After finishing Year 12, Suzanne started working, but again she found it hard to fit in and keep a job and was often told she wasn’t a ‘people person’. She ended up spending a lot of time at home, battling depression.

However in her mid twenties, she was finally diagnosed with High Functioning Autism and ADHD. And now that she knew why she struggled more than others, she felt able to start turning her life around.

“I realised then I had to get out there, out of the house, and make something of my life” she explained.

When she heard about Challenger TAFE’s Wider Opportunities for Work (WOW) course while visiting Peel Personnel, she thought it could help her find a job, so she decided to enrol.

The WOW course is a bridging program that gives students like Suzanne the opportunity to build self-confidence and learn new skills. It also prepares students for entering other TAFE courses.

For Suzanne, enrolling in WOW was the start of an unexpected pathway.

“While doing WOW I realised I was actually a lot smarter than I thought!” she said.

WOW helped Suzanne explore her opportunities for a career and, on a practical level, got her used to being in a classroom again.

“I think the course should be called ‘Wider Opportunities for Anything’,” she continued.

“The lecturers were amazing. They were encouraging the students to try all kind of things, not just looking for jobs. They really helped me get ready for the next step.”

And that next step was the OnTrack program at Murdoch University, aimed at preparing people with disabilities for University study. OnTrack made Suzanne realise that she could actually start a university degree, something she never thought possible.

She is now a first-year Psychology student at Murdoch University and the first uni student in her family.

“Starting uni is exciting and scary at the same time, but because of what I learned at WOW and OnTrack I know I can make it work.”

Suzanne is passionate about helping other people with a disability and hopes her story will encourage them to take that first step.

“It’s good to get out there. Scary, but good. Just try a fun evening course to get started, without any pressure. And once you like that, you can be confident to take the next step like me,” she said.

And who knows, they may end up being an advocate for people with a disability, just like Suzanne.

my knowledge and skills recognised was straight forward. It was so much easier than I expected” Michelle said.

Any remaining units Michelle still needed for her qualification could be done by flexible learning, either on-line or by self-paced study.

As well as running her bookkeeping business, Michelle has two young children and found flexible study suited her needs “Because I could do most of the work for those units from home and at a time that suited me, I found I could fit it in around the work for my clients and my family” she commented.

Now that Michelle has completed her Bookkeeping qualification she can focus completely on providing an excellent service for her clients.

“At the moment I get one or two new clients every month, and all of them through referral. My focus is on delivering a professional service, and I think I can say I’m getting that right!” Michelle said.

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