Matt Cocks and his partner Jane stood in India, watching a bridge being built.
Matt had just been made redundant, and the pair was travelling for a bit of a break while they figured out their next move.
As they watched a team of men hauling woks filled with wet concrete across precarious scaffolding to columns in the middle of the structure, Matt said “there must be a better way to build a bridge.”
Jane turned to him and said “well, why don’t you go and study engineering and find out?”
And suddenly everything made sense.
“By the time we got home, we were certain it was a good decision,” he said.
“My partner had gotten a job in Hobart so we were relocating.”
Matt is now in his third year of his Bachelor of Engineering with Honours at the University of Tasmania, specialising in mechatronics, a cross between mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.
Before starting Uni, Matt was living in the North West of Tasmania, doing carpentry, plumbing, and building.
“I worked for a company doing upgrades and maintenance on public housing. Their contract ended and my position became redundant. I’d been trying to get an apprenticeship as a mature age carpenter, but it just wasn’t happening.
“There just weren’t the opportunities for work in that area for me to really meet my potential.”
Carpentry is something of a tradition in Matt’s family; but unfortunately so are the trade’s accompanying back problems.
“Many of my family members are carpenters and they have buggered backs. Their bodies have been damaged and they’re somewhat immobile because of the constant physical labour.
“Seeing how I was progressing towards that, I could see the writing on the wall.
“I figured going into mechatronics was a sure bet for my employment future as it’s a current field of engineering which will be relevant in our lifetime.”
Matt had been out of school for 15 years when he returned to Uni.
“I started a music degree when he was 17, but I wasn’t really ready to learn what they wanted to teach me. I put it down to immaturity.
“Returning to Uni was a bit of a shock! I did a summer unit in maths foundation and one in physics foundation, and it was a great introduction to using my brain intensively again.
“Coming from a building background, I knew the how of building things. With engineering, you know why that roof truss is shaped a certain way.
Studying as a mature age student, I know what I want to get out of it. Having that purpose and drive is important. I’m a lot more motivated than I was at 17.
While studying can be “intense”, Matt said the learning is “extremely enjoyable.”
“It’s just incredible the stuff we can describe with maths. Everything I’m learning is really amazing.”
And Matt’s advice for people thinking about coming back to study?
If you’re in a position in life where you’re unhappy, you’re not feeling fulfilled in your employment, or you’re just ready for a change, I think it’s worthy of consideration to go back to university.
“You’re spending a short amount of time and giving yourself a leg up into the direction that you want to go,” he said.
You can change your future. Apply now for study.
Take this time now to do something that’s going to benefit you in the future.