Bad back brings new direction for Alan  

Alan Jones

Imagine spending 30 years running a successful business and being told it will put you in a wheelchair.

That’s what Alan Jones faced in 2006 when his bad back forced him to abandon his plumbing career.

Alan enjoyed working with people so when an opportunity arose to volunteer at the local visitors’ information centre for a few hours, he jumped at it.

“I looked after the place while staff were having lunch, then I was asked to help out throughout the day,” he said.

Pondering his next move, the 55-year-old realised that becoming proficient with computing would be a wise move, so he signed up at Charles Darwin University’s Katherine campus.

 “I was sick of sitting at home and told my insurance company it was time to learn,” he said.

Alan enrolled in a Certificate I in Information Technology and began to build confidence with computers.

“Understanding word processing and spreadsheets opened huge doors for me,” he said.

His new IT skills and formidable knowledge of Territory roads, fishing spots and attractions landed him a full-time job at the information centre in 2008.

In the peak season, more than 700 travellers pass through the facility each day and, thanks to evening classes by his lecturer Sally Compagnoni, Alan can still study while helping tourists.

“It’s difficult at first, but once you grasp computers it opens many doors and the hardest part is making that first step,” he said.

Ms Compagnoni said many of her students were in similar situations to Alan.

“Many start studying IT fearing it, but this course gives them the basis and the opportunity to get a basic grasp,” she said. “It’s all about confidence and once my students build it up, they see a new world opening.”