Have you ever had a moment where you realised what you were doing wasn’t satisfying you? Mature-age student Ian Van Biezen did, when, after switching jobs, he decided to start the UniReady Enabling Program to eventually transition to an undergraduate degree. With UniPass assisting him and a vast volunteering background to draw upon for inspiration, Ian’s future looks bright.
Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in Perth, went to year 10 in school and my parents decided that I needed to do a trade in painting and decorating. I didn’t like it and spent nine years doing it.
I then worked at a job network to inspire people, like what the tutors do with us: to help them figure out their goals, what they want to do, what their objectives are and bring something out of them. We called it the ‘lightbulb moment’, where we helped those unemployed people follow their dreams. We put them through a three-week job search facilitation program, where we taught them skills, taught them how to find work and taught them how to recognise the skills they have. It was so rewarding, but very draining at the same time.
I then went into call centres and found my niche in recruitment, which is where I spent the last eight years. I did temporary contracts for internal recruitment roles in the mining sector and that’s obviously had a downturn now; all the jobs have disappeared from that sector. If they don’t need miners, they’re not going to hire their recruiters.
So that’s what led you to where you are now?
Yes. My high school teachers said that I was academic and should be going to university. I want to do a primary school teaching degree next year and when I was in high school two of my teachers said that I should be doing teaching, which is really weird. Since I’ve been at uni, I’ve had three of my tutors say the same thing: “Why don’t you consider doing teaching as a career, because you have the temperament and I can see you in front of twenty kids teaching.”
I’m 43 now, so I take this as my last roll of the career dice, which is why I’m taking UniReady so seriously, because once you get to that 50 [year old] mark, you’re tipping over that barrier. It’s like a ‘life reset’, as if I’m starting again. Like I’m 18 and I’ve made a career choice about what I want to pursue.
What volunteering work have you done?
I’ve done volunteering work for the LGBTI community with a group that they had in Perth, called Clubwest, which ran for nearly 24 years. It was, at that time, the longest running group in WA. Essentially, we did cabaret shows every three months. So we put on drag shows and had hundreds of people come to shows. We were raising money for HIV and age awareness both locally and internationally. We ended up expanding worldwide and raising money for orphanages in Africa and Asia.
Why did you start UniReady and what do you think of it?
I started UniReady as a life reset. I’ve decided that temping and going from one job to another is not something that somebody in their mid 40s should be doing. My sister in law did the [UniReady] course last semester and she loved it, which is how I came across it. I obviously didn’t finish year 12, so this was the pathway I could take to reach my objectives as far as coming to university. Initially, I enrolled online and then when I saw the content, I thought: “No, I can’t do it online. This is something I need to do in class.”
As a mature-age student, not being educated for a while, it’s been quite inspiring. Because I’m the patriarch of a lot of the classes that I’m in, I’m learning a lot from them and they’re learning from me; from my life experience. I love everything about the course and about what Curtin does to support you, because they don’t want to see you fail either, because you’re being invested in. I really enjoy meeting everybody.
It’s also amazing [to realise] what you know. I came to university, thinking: “It’s going to be so difficult. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to struggle.” You come with all those views, but as soon as you sit down in that tutor room, they walk in and say: “This is it guys. This is all it is.” You just pick stuff up and if you can’t pick it up, there’s lots of support out there. Honestly, I nearly came close to dropping out. I nearly had that weak feeling of not being able to do it anymore, but I just picked up my notebook and decided to keep going. Stepping into that environment has been quite amazing.
How do you think UniReady and other programs that you take part in, like UniPass, are going to help you with your studies?
As far as UniPass is considered, the help with academic writing has been fantastic. It’s really helped me, particularly with my first assessment. I’ve surprised myself. I just got the results back and I got a distinction. For a mature-age student, I thought it was pretty good. But that was mostly thanks to UniPass because of the stuff they reinforce and teach you, and to write examples of in-class work.
UniReady has been really good. You just have to put the time in, do your topic readings, come to class prepared and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was really frightened that when I asked questions I’d feel stupid because it’s university and I’d be asking academics, but I found out that asking no question is stupid. I love it.
What’s your dream?
I’ve almost made up my mind now that I’m going to do teaching. I really want to see myself in the classroom with six or seven year olds, years 1 and 2, and I want to see that lightbulb moment in the kids. Just like with me, when I learn something new and I don’t get it and then the lightbulb goes off, I want a six year old to have that lightbulb experience, and run home and say “Mummy, Daddy, guess what? Today we …” and just be excited about learning.