Not everyone grows up knowing what they want to be, or how to get there.
For qualified social worker Jeffrey Harvey, the one thing he was sure of was that he loved living in Whyalla, a community where his family and friends are and where his parents ran their small business, as had his grandparents before them.
It was no surprise that Jeff decided to work after finishing school – he hadn’t really made up his mind about a career, but his drive to earn money and willingness to work hard and try new things saw him doing everything from labouring and hospitality, to traffic control and working in a supermarket.
It was when he decided that more education and a tertiary qualification would offer more career choices that Jeff became acutely aware that his city was one of only two in the state to have a regional university campus.
“UniSA’s campus in Whyalla is actually a constant reminder that there are opportunities to learn right here – for me that made all the difference because I didn’t need to go away from my family and my community to study,” he says.
At 23, Jeff started a bridging program, which helps students to build up their skills to a level where they can tackle university, and then began what seemed natural enough, a Bachelor of Business and Enterprise.
Having completed a fair chunk of the degree, the opportunity to actually run a small business came up and Jeff traded study for practical experience.
“Sometimes, you suddenly realise that the expectations that the world seems to have for you are not really where you are most fulfilled and for me, making my career in business management just didn’t feel right,” he says.
By then happily married, it was his wife who suggested he think about what he really wanted to do, and it was a specialist career counselling service that narrowed down some careers that would suit him – counselling, social work or teaching.
With options to study for those careers just around the corner, Jeff returned to his books aged 30, and qualified as a social worker.
“There were some sacrifices,” he says. “I worked part time while I studied and we had to do some major economising, but I felt incredibly supported in my studies by my family at home and at the university.
“Studying regionally means there are smaller class sizes and there is much more access to lecturers and tutors.”
Now employed with the Department of Child Protection, Jeff says he couldn’t be more satisfied with his career choice.
“My work makes a difference in my community and that is important to me,” he says.
“Regional towns tend to have higher unemployment, less infrastructure and social problems like drug use go hand in hand with that, which in turn impacts on family stability.
“Kids needs a sense of hope and to have their energies channelled into positive, affirming activities.
“Part of my role is to keep kids safe, but it is also to help them imagine a better future.
“I think my story shows that whether you come to education straight from school or later, it is life-changing.
“The very presence of the UniSA campus in Whyalla represents potential for the whole community, and in real terms it offers opportunities for people from right across the region who want to learn, change course and follow their best path.”
Jeff’s story is one of hundreds. Stories of people who want to study where they live, and then bring their skills to their communities.
UniSA has two key regional university campuses in SA – one in Whyalla and one in the heart of the State’s southeast, Mount Gambier.
Regional manager at UniSA Mount Gambier Ian McKay says both campuses play an important role in developing talent in the regions, underpinning the supply of teachers, nurses, social workers, health professionals and midwives, and offering people a way back into education through specially designed re-entry programs.
“The university’s two regional campuses are ‘study central’ for more than 650 students a year and we have graduated thousands of students who want to live, work and contribute to regional South Australia,” Ian says.
“We’ve also expanded our reach and students’ options with the launch of UniSA Online, one of the only suite of programs offered online that have been carefully crafted by the university to deliver a truly personalised learning experience that fits with people’s lives.
“UniSA Online students are always welcomed on campus, so you can study at home in Mount Schank or Kimba but when you are in Mount Gambier or Whyalla you can enjoy all the campus facilities that other students access.”
Regional manager of the Whyalla campus Paul Havelberg says every day, through engagement with students, local business leaders and the wider community, he is reminded how valuable the campus is.
“UniSA’s regional presence is core to its mission to offer educational opportunities across socio-economic and geographical barriers and that is making a real difference to hundreds of lives across South Australia,” he says.
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