Western’s short courses help displaced workers retrain for new careers

Oskar Cochrane-Kraus

Western Sydney University is offering a range of intensive short courses (opens in a new window), to assist people who may be out of work as a result of COVID-19 in acquiring new skills or retraining for new careers.

Western was the first institution to commence the online delivery of its short courses, which were developed in response to the Australian Government’s Higher Education Relief Package.

The first intake of students in the Undergraduate Certificates commenced their studies in May, while the Graduate Certificates will be delivered during Spring semester which commences in July.

Dr Nicolene Murdoch, Chief Executive Officer of the University’s pathways provider The College, said demand for the courses indicates that COVID-19 has sparked a surge in demand for careers in mental health, counselling and the care sector.

“When developing the courses, we were conscious that COVID-19 was having a dramatic impact on the care sector, and areas such as counselling, mental health, and disability and aged care would be of national workforce need. What we weren’t expecting, was the extent of the community demand,” said Dr Murdoch.

“When the short-courses were uploaded to the CourseSeeker website, we immediately attracted the most page views for our Undergraduate Certificate in Counselling and Mental Health. Interest in this course has continued, with the course achieving more applications than the other Undergraduate Certificates combined.”

Rebecca Mullaney, a 40-year-old mother of five from Port Stephens, is one of the newly enrolled students in the Undergraduate Certificate in Counselling and Mental Health.

Rebecca had been self-employed for the last two years as a Travel Agent, and had been travelling herself in the United States in January – blissfully unaware of the threat of COVID-19 and the significant impact that it would have on her life.

“We’d heard about COVID-19 on the news but didn’t take much notice – we just thought it was another flu. When we got to the airport to return home and saw people wearing face masks, we thought that was a bit dramatic,” said Rebecca.

“Then, in the week before lockdown, everything just stopped. I live in a very touristy area, and suddenly there were no tour buses anymore and it became a ghost town and the phones just stopped ringing.”

Rebecca enrolled in the Undergraduate Certificate in Counselling and Mental Health (opens in a new window) as a means of retraining for a new career.

“I’ve always been really interested in mental health and therapy, and I can’t think of a time when mental health is more important. I can see that this new career is something that I will be really passionate about.”

Oskar Cochrane-Kraus also enrolled in the Counselling and Mental health short course after losing his job at a Blackheath café due to COVID-19.

When 18-year-old Oskar finished high school last year, he aspired for a career in the Police Force – but at that stage he wasn’t ready to commit to tertiary study. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, he has redirected his focus back to university.

“It was really difficult losing my job with all of this going on, but I decided to take it as an opportunity to look toward my future again,” said Oskar.

“It’s going really well so far. I can see that it’s a good opportunity that will open doors, and I want to make the most of it.”

Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University, Professor Barney Glover AO, said the University’s response to the Higher Education Relief Package is representative of the University’s agility; its strong connections with local business and industry; and its unwavering commitment to serving the communities of Greater Western Sydney.

“For more than 30 years, Western Sydney University has been a national leader in opening up access and developing innovative pathways to higher education for people from diverse educational backgrounds,” said Professor Glover.

“When the Australian Government announced the Higher Education Relief Package, we did not hesitate. We answered the Government’s call, and are committed to doing our part to address the workforce challenges that our nation is now facing.

“I am immensely proud that – in the face of the many challenges presented by the global health crisis – we are still able to so fully deliver on our University mission, and use our strengths and resources as a provider of world-class higher education to make a difference in the community.”


9 June 2020

Photo: Sally Tsoutas

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer