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Women's Careers Like a Jungle Gym

Published: 23 Nov 2016

Caption: Bookplate owner, Tracey Keely and CIT Return to Work for Women graduate Alina Bryleva

"A woman's career is not linear, it's like a jungle gym. You fall off often." So says Canberra business woman Tracey Keeley, guest speaker at a CIT ceremony last week celebrating graduates from the highly successful Return to Work for Women (RTWW) program, the first to train at CIT's new Tuggeranong campus.

Tracey is the force behind the restoration of the National Library of Australia's Bookplate café and catering business - and a happy new employer of one of the RTWW program's latest graduates.

Tracey told the audience she had no idea of the challenge she faced when she took on the Bookplate business in 2014. It went into liquidation a few weeks after she won the NLA cafe tender. Since then Tracey's energy and sheer hard work has seen Bookplate win several business awards. Tracey's skills and success were recognised at the 2016 Canberra Women Business Awards where she was selected as Business Woman of the Year - Highly Commended.

Tracey said her experience as a sole parent, wondering where the next dollar would come from, drove her success and commitment to support other women to achieve financial independence. That's what makes Tracey's link to CIT's RTWW program natural.

Linking local businesses and organisations offering valuable work experience with women needing a bit of extra support and encouragement to get back into the workforce is a primary reason for the program's ongoing success. About 80% of RTWW graduates secure paid work or enrol to study after graduating with a Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

Like new RTWW graduate Alina Bryleva. Alina was fortunate to do work experience at Bookplate and now looks forward to working part-time in the business as an office and human resources' assistant.

Russian-born Alina had been seeking work for two years after taking maternity leave and then leaving a job in Qatar to migrate to Australia. Despite a good degree and eight years' work experience in the international energy and environment spheres, Alina could not find work in Canberra.

Alina said she realised "I would not get a job by sitting at my computer" and applying for jobs online. "I needed information about my new country, but I didn't have any network." Signing up for the RTWW program Alina gained "assistance with my resume, a network and understanding of the work culture" in Australia. And a new job with a known employer that allows her to parent.

Tracey said her business was "the luckiest in the world" to have found Alina. "We didn't realise by being involved [in the program] it was going to open up this amazing opportunity."

Last semester students were offered work experience at the ACT environment and education directorates, Senator Gai Brodtmann's electorate office, the federal Department of Veteran Affairs, UNSW Canberra, State Emergency Services, Northside Community Service, Macquarie and Ngunnawal primary schools, Burgmann Anglican School, Bunnings, the OZHelp Foundation, the Heart Foundation ACT and The Vikings Group as well as Bookplate.

The Return to Work for Women program runs for 14 weeks with graduates obtaining a Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways. Enrolments for 2017 are open now.