With English as a second language and a family to support, there were many occasions Sailendra Sapkota thought he would give up his studies.
The Nepalese-Wagga man said it had been a life-long dream to become a nurse.
But he said it was a dream that came with many challenges.
Having graduated from TAFE NSW in 2014, Mr Sapkota went on to university and finalised his studies this year.
His great achievement comes amid an increase in vet-course students using their studies as a pathway to higher education, with 30 per cent of TAFE graduates moving on to university.
As a guest speaker at Tuesday’s graduation ceremony in Wagga, Mr Sapkota congratulated students of the course he completed three-years ago.
Mr Sapkota said his wife had been studying at the same time, raising their two children and working, while he worked full time to keep the family afloat. So he said he knew the barriers some graduates had faced.
Despite losing his dad this year, the father-of-two kept his dream in focus and will begin his career as a nurse at Wagga Hospital in 2018.
“Don’t make excuses,” Mr Sapkota said. “There is always a way.”
The Health Services graduates on Tuesday joined more than 20,000 TAFE students across the Riverina, celebrating the end of an era, as they received their diplomas and certificates across a broad range of courses.
TAFE Riverina’s general manager Kerry Penton said the enrollment numbers for 2017 were higher than previous years.
Ms Penton said not only was TAFE NSW creating a pathway to uni courses and degrees, it was also a starting point for university grads seeking practical skills.
“If you look at job availability, people are seeking hard, practical skills,” Ms Penton said. “That’s what we provide here … students go from us, straight into jobs.”
She said it was the breadth of full-time, part-time, short courses and the flexibility that made it an attractive alternative to the three-year degrees of other higher-education institutions.
Ms Penton’s words come despite government reforms and funding changes, that were in October blamed for TAFE’s mass job and student losses, campus closures and sales since 2012, according to an Education International report.