Carla Willcox


Certificate III in Disability

‘Expect the unexpected’ could well be the motto for Carla Willcox, winner of the Vocational Student of the Year Award at the 2016 Australian Training Awards. Having been a ‘stay at home Mum’ for 13 years, Carla never expected her first hesitant steps into part time work and retraining would lead to full time work, promotion and further study; never expected to end up with an enduring career she loves and is passionate about; and never expected to be a national award winner! But that’s indeed the reality for Carla and she couldn’t be happier.

“When I made the decision to re-enter the workforce and re-train I had no ambition beyond getting some part-time work. But the more I got into my studies and my work in the disability sector, the further I wanted to go -never thinking I’d get this far,” laughed Carla. “I was so shocked to be announced as an Australian Training Awards winner that I didn’t even have a speech prepared!”

With four children, a husband with a fly-in/fly-out job and low self-confidence, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Carla. After trying unsuccessfully for two years to get into TasTAFE’s aged care course, her luck turned when she secured a place in the Certificate III in Disability and subsequent employment as a support worker with Coastal Residential Services North West Tasmania. Carla has now landed a promotion with Family Based Care in Burnie and is excited about the ‘terrific’ career path that has opened up to her.

“Winning the award has certainly given me great exposure and has helped my career, but it’s not just about me. I want to promote and advocate for my industry, and I want to be an advocate for all those other mums out there who are daunted by the thought of re-entering the workforce,” said Carla.  

“I’m proof that it’s doable—I’m not saying bits weren’t hard, there were non-believers and non-supporters along the way, and I was concerned about putting pressure on my family. But my family recognised that what I was doing was important, they really respected me for giving it a go, and everyone stepped up. They have been inspired and are extremely proud of what I’ve achieved.”

Carla is now studying for her Certificate IV in Disability and is hoping to get into a leadership and management course with the National Disability Insurance Scheme later this year. She is keen to broaden her knowledge and grow professionally with a view to becoming a Community Services Coordinator in the future.

“For someone like me the great thing about VET is its accessibility and flexibility—by studying in smaller chunks and gaining certificates and diplomas along the way you build your confidence and it is much less daunting and more doable.  I’m living proof that with perseverance and determination anything is possible.  I’m really honoured to have won at the Australian Training Awards and I plan to give everything I can in embracing it and inspiring as many others as I possibly can.”