The schooling system isn't for everyone. That's what Matthew Perry found when, at 21 years old, he enrolled in his first course at the Canberra Institute of Technology.
Matthew struggled with a medical condition throughout school that impacted his daily life and ability to learn.
"I had a very troubled schooling. I didn't get a whole lot out of school. Essentially I came out of school not knowing what a fraction was," Matthew said.
He attended eight different schools and left Year 12 without hope of completing further study at university.
Three years later, Matthew discovered CIT and enrolled in a Diploma of Mechanical Engineering. He didn't have the required prerequisites or mathematical knowledge but undertook an intensive three-month bridging course, which he says he couldn't have done without the support of the teachers.
Matthew didn't finish the diploma but says the teachers' acceptance of his medical condition and the attention given to his education made him more determined and confident in his ability to study.
"They gave me a chance. I gained a lot of mathematical knowledge, physics. The teachers are wonderful, they teach you practical knowledge," Matthew said.
Instead of giving up, he completed an electrical apprenticeship through TAFE and went on to become an electrician.
Last year, Matthew's medical condition flared up and he returned to CIT to start a Certificate III in Laboratory Skills. He is now completing his Bachelor of Forensic Science with hopes of one day working in a laboratory environment.
He's now more optimistic about his future than ever, something he never felt throughout school.
"Since I left school it's always been a dream of mine to complete a Bachelor's degree. CIT has helped me do this. They make you feel so welcome, they give you the support if you ask for it. It changed my life for the better," he said.
Thursday was National TAFE Day, highlighting alternative pathways for the thousands of Australians who have difficulty fitting in to the schooling system or wanting a practical education.
"It's a great system, it's undervalued. They teach you practical skills, anything you want to do. It can give you a future," Matthew said.
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