Young mums take first steps

Young mums who will be taking part in Stepping Stones Jess Schulz and Samantha Scofield with her son Tyelan, 1, and (rear) Tamara Sivewright and Catheryn McMillian from ACE Community Colleges Lismore.
Young mums who will be taking part in Stepping Stones Jess Schulz and Samantha Scofield with her son Tyelan, 1, and (rear) Tamara Sivewright and Catheryn McMillian from ACE Community Colleges Lismore.

Mums tend to have a naturally good work ethic - the job is, after all, never ending - but the fact remains once you've got a little bub taking up your waking (and quite often your sleeping) hours, returning to work or study can be tough. And if you're young, with little job experience or qualifications, it can be doubly hard.

Tamara Sivewright knows what it's like to be a teen mum and how that can affect your life - while girlfriends are out socialising, studying or launching their careers, mum is often at home surrounded by noise, nappies and a growing person who needs undivided attention.

Aware there are many barriers for young mums to study or re-enter the workforce, from time and money to self-confidence and access to flexible learning, Tamara and her colleagues at ACE Community Colleges Lismore have launched a free program called Stepping Stones.

The program is a 40-week Certificate III in Children's Services, giving young mums a pathway back to study and employment in a supportive and nurturing environment.

"I was in Year 11 when I fell pregnant with my son and a lot of people assumed that was it," Tamara said.

She said there was an attitude where others perceived young mums would just have more kids and get trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency.

"You're still a kid yourself but you've got all these other responsibilities… these beautiful little poppets come along one day and it makes things tricky. Something I wanted to do was give these girls a way back into education and a way back into employment and a place to connect with each other."

Tamara said Stepping Stones is structured into four separate 'clusters' so mums can finish each one, reflect on what they've achieved and plan on where they want to go in the future. She said it can be daunting as a young mum to start formalised study or work again as many mums have been isolated for quite some time, solely looking after their baby's needs. Stepping Stones can help make the transition easier.

The program is only one day a week so mums can keep a healthy family life going and Tamara said it's both encouraging and fun to have other young mums in the same boat to chat, share and learn with.

"There's so much I love about this program," Tamara enthused. "The criteria to apply are simply that you're a young mum aged 18 to 24, you're not means tested, it doesn't look at whether you're partnered or single, and you're with your own peer group." She said the course includes a workplace component and it's not all (more) work for mum, with monthly social days with bub so you can relax with other participants and just enjoy spending time together. It also includes learning about first aid, OH&S, and helps with developing resumes and job applications.

Tamara emphasised that above all, the course is flexible - essential in the hectic life of a young mother.

The program starts on Monday, March 5, and there are only 24 funded places, so it's a case of first in, best dressed. For information or to register, phone ACE on 6622 1903.

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