A Bega dad who has been surrounded by people living with disability his whole life has studied to become a disability support worker, saying he's finally found "his calling" in life.
Jamie Cutajar, 47, lives with a mild intellectual disability and both his wife and two children are living with learning difficulties.
After spending most of his adult life as a factory worker, Mr Cutajar took a professional leap of faith in the middle of the pandemic and enrolled in a Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability) at TAFE NSW Bega.
Just weeks before graduating, Mr Cutajar secured a paid role as a disability support worker at Disability Trust and hasn't looked back.
"All my life I've been surrounded by people with a disability," Mr Cutajar said.
"I thought I'd give it a try and I'm so glad I did. To be able to support someone to live their best life is such a privilege and I get so much gratification out of it.
"I didn't dream I'd ever be doing this but I've found my calling and I couldn't have done it without TAFE NSW."
It comes amid an NDIS-fuelled jobs explosion in the disability sector, with NDIS chief executive David Moody revealing about 430,000 Australians were being supported under the scheme, leaving an estimated national shortage of about 120,000 disability support workers.
TAFE NSW Bega will this month host a special jobs summit in the region to help attract more workers to the community services sector.
Mr Cutajar said the one-on-one tuition he received from TAFE NSW Bega Community Services Teacher Steve Reed had been the difference in him completing the course.
"I wouldn't have got through the assessments without that personalised tuition with Steve after class," he said.
"I learned so much about the skills I needed to succeed in the job, such as confidentiality and handling difficult clients."
Mr Reed urged locals to consider a career in disability, and said a growing skills gap in the industry meant jobs were plentiful.
"The majority of our students secure work before graduating," Mr Reed said.
"It's very rewarding work to be able to empower clients to live as independently as possible.
"Jamie is a powerful example of how TAFE NSW arms students with the practical skills and experience to make an immediate impact in their roles."
Mr Reed said enrolments were now open for the Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability) at TAFE
NSW Bega, with the course running for 12 months each Monday and Wednesday during term between 9.30am and 1.30pm.
To explore the range of courses available at TAFE NSW and via TAFE Digital, visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601 for more information.
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