A growing number of Australians are choosing to return to study as mature-age students. Perhaps caught in the hamster-wheel of mortgage and family, furthering their education wasn’t an option when they were younger.

But that was then.

Harriet had long fancied setting up a home-based book-keeping business. But being a single mum, raising her two daughters and working part-time in a clothing store, kept her too busy for anything else.

After her girls left home to begin their own lives, Harriet enrolled in a book-keeping course at her local TAFE. She’d put her own goals on hold for almost twenty years and now she was finally able to achieve them.

Older people return to study as mature-aged students for a number of reasons. Perhaps, like Harriet, they’re fulfilling a dream, that due to various lifestyle or family commitments, they’ve had on the back-burner for a while.

Some wish to update their skills and gain confidence at work, qualify for a job promotion or pay increase. Many seek a complete career change or something to keep them busy in retirement.

Take Ed, for example. After a thirty-year banking career, Ed was approaching retirement. Though he looked forward to finishing full-time work, he couldn’t see himself doing nothing at all.

After chatting with some local real estate offices, he discovered their regular need for a handyman to perform odd-jobs on properties they manage.

Happily for Ed, on 28 November 2018, the federal government announced an expansion of its Adult Australian Apprentices Incentive – a program supporting employers who engage a mature age (over age 25) apprentice.

Ed had always loved working with his hands, so he quit his job at the bank and began life as a mature-age apprentice. By retirement, he planned to achieve a trade qualification and enough work experience to set up a part-time handyman business.

Harriet and Ed are not alone. In fact, so many mature-age Australians are furthering their education that the federal government is a major sponsor of the National Skills Week.

This is a national event held in August each year, for the promotion of activities that align with adult learning, along with a support program for those preparing to return to education.

The federal government also provides financial support for mature-age Australians seeking to further their education along certain study paths. The list of eligible courses covered is extensive. See the Funded Course List at www.education.vic.gov.au for further information.

Additionally, government study loans are available through the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) which has a range of loan schemes to help with various study costs.

You’re expected to begin repaying your HELP debt – even if you’re still studying – if you’re earning above a certain amount. Repayments are between 4% and 8% of your income, depending on how much you earn, and will be calculated through the income tax system.

So whether you’re wishing to enhance and update your existing skills, embark on a new career or simply learn something new, the opportunities are endless. Start by checking out local TAFE colleges for course guides.

And if you’re living remotely or don’t fancy a classroom environment, consider studying online. You’ll be amazed – and inspired – by the range of online courses available. Further, they are often cheaper than face-to-face courses, enable you to schedule study around other commitments and provide interaction with teachers and fellow students.

Perhaps that long-held dream of working an archaeological dig isn’t out of reach after all! The world is bursting with possibilities; and we’re never too old to explore them!