ACT Training Awards 2021 – Jacob Alfonso

8 September 2021

Jacob Alfonso, a trainee at our Campbell Cottage early childhood service, is a finalist in the ACT Trainee of the Year category of this year’s 2021 ACT Training Awards. The awards are an annual opportunity to showcase the commitment, innovation and outstanding achievements of all those involved in the ACT vocational education and training (VET) sector.

With the award event cancelled due to COVID, we wanted to give her the moment in the spotlight she deserves by highlighting his incredible achievements!

How did you get started in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector?

I entered the Early Childhood Education and Care industry to fulfil my lifelong passion for teaching and empowering children. I strongly believe that if we teach children life skills from an early age, they will become informed and empowered adults who are capable of embracing life to its fullest.

I started working in the sector in September 2016 and completed my Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care through an Australian School Based Apprenticeship (ASBA) while studying for my year 12 certificate.

I then chose to study a Diploma to extend my knowledge in my chosen career, both in providing the best education and care for children and learning more about the wider industry.

What have you enjoyed most about your current studies?

I particularly found the sections of my Diploma on fostering holistic development and curriculum design and development impacted my work. I can now apply my studies to developing activities based on children’s interests that will develop their mental and physical skills.

I am particularly keen on helping develop children’s creative skills and using these to find new ways to help children learn. I also enjoy watching the children use their creativity, and provide support and encouragement to the children in this process, giving them autonomy to develop their own learnings. This is part of a process of enabling the children to grow and develop in their own individual and unique personalities.

‘Jacob’s supervisors always provide glowing reports on his performance at work and also the tasks he implements. Every YWCA Canberra service he has helped for the day asks if they can keep him!’ – Mariah Terry, Jacob’s trainer and assessor.

Have you experienced any barriers in your studies?

Being autistic made it difficult to begin my Diploma. After completing my Certificate III, I realised I needed more strategies in place to complete the higher-level qualification while working, particularly given how fast-paced the work is on a daily basis.

Over two years, I developed these strategies and put them in place so I could begin my Diploma. Thankfully they have worked well and I am completing my qualifications on time.

I am very thankful for my trainers and workplace supervisors, who have all been very helpful in supporting me to finish my Diploma. They are always open for me to ask questions, and they always provide me with feedback when they feel it is needed.

What have you found most surprising about studying ECEC?

One of the most eye-opening experiences has been learning how to engage with children on their level and share their interests. Not only do they learn from me, but I learn from them too! I love seeing the passion children have for learning, and engaging with them on this.

This has also taught me how to adapt to the changing needs and interests of the children and given me a greater respect for their unique ways of thinking. It has been inspiring being able to talk to them at their level and to enable their exploration of the world around them.

What has being a finalist for the ACT Trainee of the Year meant to you?

Being nominated and selected as a finalist has given me hope and encouragement that I can make it through difficult times and difficult studies. As a person who has struggled at times with study because of my autism, being recognised for the amount and quality of study I’ve been doing for the last 18 months or so has made my so proud of myself.

My team has also been very supportive, including bringing in cake and flowers to congratulate me. I feel so lucky to be part of a great team here, who have encouraged me through all my studies, given me a hand when I needed it and made sure I’m up to date with my assessments.

And many parents within my service have sent their congratulations through the app we use to communicate with families, which has been very touching.

With the awards ceremony cancelled, do you have plans for the night of 9 September?

Yes, my mum and dad are making me a nice dinner to celebrate!

Regardless of the outcome when the ACT Training Awards recipients are announced, we are so proud of Jacob for reaching the finals of this competitive awards program. He is a winner to us!

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