ACON’s Chloe Wilson named TAFE NSW Student of the Year

ACON Hunter Region's Chloe Wilson. Photo: supplied.

ACON Hunter Region employee Chloe Wilson has been named TAFE NSW’s Higher Education Student of the Year at the 2023 TAFE NSW Excellence Awards in recognition of her hard work in the community services space.

“It was a shock to the system!” Wilson said, after winning the award.

“But I feel honoured that my teachers believed in me and could see the hard work I was putting in. The TAFE NSW Excellence Award has really boosted my confidence at work.”

With increasing demand for community services workers, Wilson, 24, is one of many TAFE Digital graduates learning the skills needed to support the Hunter Region community and successfully obtained a Bachelor in Community Services.

Chloe said her student placement through TAFE had led directly to paid employment with a leading community services provider.

“My very first TAFE NSW placement was working at ACON, which provides HIV and community health support services for people of diverse genders and sexualities,” Wilson said.

“In this role I was talking to people, assisting with enquiries, delivering harm reduction, and checking people in for appointments – basically dealing directly with the community, which I loved.”

“As a queer person myself, this role felt very natural and, shortly after the end of my placement, I was offered paid casual work. By the end of my TAFE NSW course, I’d gained the skills to successfully transition to a full-time Mental Health Peer Worker role, which is where I am today.”

Sought after skills and life experiences

Chloe’s manager, ACON Hunter Region team leader, Counselling Services and Care Coordination, Louise Dunne, said skilled graduates like Wilson are not easy to find. 

“It’s hard to find people that are professional, skilled and knowledgeable, and who are also self-aware and committed to continuous improvement, but we’ve found it in Chloe,” Dunne said.

“Lived experience is incredibly important, and TAFE NSW has shown Chloe how she can apply her own lived experience safely to support some of the most vulnerable in our community. 

“Chloe is passionate and works very hard. She’s shown a big increase in her skills and knowledge since completing her TAFE NSW degree and is now working with ACON full-time. Chloe is an integral part of our service and is well respected in our community and among her peers.”

Wilson’s teacher, Beth Evans, said TAFE Digital meant more people with lived experience could access the right courses through remote learning to help them start community service careers. 

“TAFE Digital provides flexible access to the best courses that are going to land people jobs in their chosen field,” Evans said.

“TAFE Digital makes the Bachelor of Community Services accessible to a more diverse range of learners.”

Chloe said TAFE Digital had really helped break down the barriers she had to furthering her education. 

“Before I started with TAFE Digital, I was working a lot and was undertaking caring duties for someone close to me,” Wilson said.

“I also had limited access to transport. If it wasn’t for the flexibility of TAFE Digital, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

The National Skills Commission has forecast an 11 percent 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.

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Andrew M Potts

Andrew has been covering LGBTQIA+ issues for a range of publications in Australia over two decades and was the Asia-Pacific correspondent for global LGBTQIA+ news website Gay Star News.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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