Following Katherine’s win at the WA Training Awards last week, I caught up with her for a Q&A on her career and how it felt to be named the State’s Vocational Student of the Year..
What made you choose the Financial Counselling course?
I started my studies in the Community Services (Financial Counselling) because I wanted to use my administrative and banking background and interest in sociology and advocacy to assist clients to overcome their financial hardship and empower them to take steps towards a more informed way of knowing about the complex world of money, credit and debt. I also wanted to belong to a profession that is dedicated to assisting individuals and families overcome adversity though challenging or breaking the cycle of poverty. I wanted to work with people and in a profession that equips their clients with confidence and knowledge.
In the future I wish to work in an area related to increasing and enhancing financial literacy in young people (18-25). I am passionate about empowering and educating young people about real life issues such as the impact of credit reporting, credit cards, budgeting and debt. Consumer law issues are becoming increasingly complex. The majority of young adults don’t realise how their current debt can negatively affect their future credit rating. Without consistent money management practices, young people can find it difficult to reach financial goals. I aim to work with people in a manner which is engaging for them, proactive and addresses the psychological influences which impact understanding and behaviors in relation to financial matters. This can be achieved through linking theory with practice. It’s important to enhance people’s understanding of financial matters; to inform them in a way that is engaging, practical and makes sense.
Financial counselling is a profession which requires a high level of concentrated knowledge around financial matters and legislation. It is a stimulating and challenging job, in which no two days are the same due to the diversity of clients and issues. My Diploma gave me the tool kit to start my exciting journey as a financial counsellor. I recommend this job to someone who has a passion for advocating and is interested in a diverse challenging role working with people, not for them, in which no two days are the same.
I really would like to see younger people (between 25 to 40) in the profession. I believe that life experience is relative to the individual. You can meet a 25 year old who has experienced more life changing issues than a 45 year old who has led a sheltered and privileged life. I believe someone who has been in financial hardship themselves and overcome it can be an empowering role model and therefore would have more empathy for the clients. Empathy is paramount in establishing trust, and without trust, positive lasting change cannot occur.
How did you feel when you won?
I didn’t expect to win! I was really pleasantly surprised. The other finalists were all worthy of the award, so I acknowledge their efforts and hard work.
When I won, I felt a bit overwhelmed. It really felt quite surreal. Winning the Vocational Student of the year award is an accomplishment that I feel very proud to have attained. It is an achievement which I have no doubt will open up doors to further opportunities and experiences. I’m really excited to be an advocate for a training course and profession that I’m really passionate about and proud to be a part of.
What did you like about your Central course?
Through furthering my studies I have developed strong interpersonal and communication skills, and the ability to relate well to people of all ages and backgrounds. My studies have taught me to use a strength based, client centered approach in all of the work that I do. The course also equips you to understand codes of conduct and professional rules and ethics surrounding the profession.
The course provides practical, real life case scenarios and is hands on. You get to work on phases of everyday life; problem solving financial issues which affect everyone, and create and enhance budgeting techniques. I really enjoyed the community education element which explores working with community to enhance and develop their knowledge and skills. The course is also flexible and can be done online, which gives you more freedom and is accommodating to lifestyle commitments.
The Diploma in Community Services (Financial Counselling) provided an opportunity to enhance my understanding of the social, financial and legal frameworks, which impact and affect individuals and families on an everyday level. The course places a strong importance in continuing to learn as legislation and polices are always changing.
It teaches you to be adaptable; to improve understanding and to prepare to make informed decisions which better serve our clients. My studies have provided me with more confidence in dealing with complex financial issues and have given me a theoretical foundation which helps to inform and enhance the frameworks I work within.
I now see myself as someone that makes a difference, in making people’s lives a little bit easier by advocating for them when they lack the confidence. I also aim to empower them by sharing my knowledge with them and encouraging them to take action in a way that they are comfortable with and ready for.
As a financial counsellor you will work with clients who have low levels of financial literacy, vulnerable people and clients from culturally linguistically diverse backgrounds. Language barriers and different cultural factors can impact their understanding of their situation and can limit their ability to advocate for themselves. It’s important to use communication which is transparent and suitable. The nature of these interactions also requires sensitivity and careful consideration, which necessitates culturally appropriate responses. The course taught us how to develop all these skills.