So, my back's stuffed and I need to retrain. Where do I begin?

OP, it would be good if you could put an indication of your qualification level and your competencies. Same with the back.

I have been and still am in a similar situation with the back and have had operations which have worked a bit but I am still in the situation that standing and walking for anything over ten minutes causes grief. There are ways round this though, especially if you can adapt just a bit. Just to give an idea:

1] Many local commerce boards get government money to coach people in possible careers/self employed routes. You don't have to be in receipt of benefits, just willing to learn from advisors. If yougoogle xxxxxxxx Chamber of Commerce where you live, that will be an indicator.

2] Consider doing things you may think you wouldn't like. I started off doing classroom assistant stuff like photocopying and sitting with naughty kids. I now do Physics lecturing and bimble along quite happily . You obviously need to get a degree but this is possible over time whilst working. A special needs classroom assistant gets about £15000. You appreciate that I don't know what you earn so please do not take this as an insult. As far as I know, classroom assistants can get their qualifications on the job. This was certainly the case 15 years ago.

3] There are lots of self employed positions out there. To give an example; Dog Grooming. I live near Manchester and groomers charge £30 per hour. As far as I can see, they just wash the dog and polish it. Nowt else. Depending on where you live, you could double this. The lady my eldest daughter uses does it in her shed.

4] Things like task rabbit where you advertise a service and receive a fee. Can be anything, assembling flat packs, doing someone's ironing etc.

I do have sympathy for your situation but can say that there are solutions, especially if you have some form of service pension. If not, I understand that you can claim basic unemployment benefit and after this runs out, can then sign onto a business start up allowance. I don,t really know about this but others will advise.

Joshua Slocum

Book Reviewer
Do not worry to much about working against younger people
from my experience, many of them are only interested in the weekend, drinking, the opposite sex
being older can give you the advantage of experience ie when to step back from a job, or to tell a client that its a problem
cycling is good for back pain, I have a damaged back ( mcycle accident) but cycling and walking keep me in good shape, I am self employed, and some days I do not earn a lot, but tis the quality of life
as the Duke says decide what you actually need to live on
Depends what you want to do, you're very unlikely to get a desk job without a good level of literacy, a degree will teach you this and much more.
Don't get me wrong, there are many benefits in getting a degree. Gaining sufficient literacy to do a "desk job" isn't one of them. I've seen plenty of English graduates who struggle to put together a good, clear piece of business writing.

My issue was much more about Return on Investment. The OP's immediate issue is choosing a next career move that pays his bills and has opportunities for development.

Doing the right degree might well lead to a whole new, interesting and successful career. Doing the wrong won't achieve anything; just ask all those baristas with degrees in football studies.
When I buggered my back, the Jobcentre encouraged me to get a H&S qualification. Initially they said that they would pay for the course but when they found out how much it was, they quickly changed their mind.

Nevertheless, I enrolled on an e-learning NEBOSH Construction Certificate course - about £800 as opposed to the nearly £2000 classroom course. You learn the same stuff* but don't have to travel 40-odd miles to the classroom.

It's only when you get your certificate and apply for jobs that you find that really you need the diploma, not the certificate. That's 3 times the price and takes about 2 years...

So if some bright spark tells you that you should fork out some dosh for a qualification that will guarantee you a job, take it with a pinch of salt and research the job market first. My certificate certainly did help me get a job but only as a nice-to-have rather than as an essential qualification.

*actually, you learn a lot more - on the classroom course, the lecturer only teaches the stuff you need for the exam, on the e-learning course you have to learn everything because you don't know what questions are going to crop up.
OP here, I'll work through the questions first:

With regards to my back issue, my lower spine is compressed, the discs between some of the vertebrae are worn and a couple of them are bulging, pressing a nerve to the bone and causing pins and needles down my right leg. My backache isn't enough to interfere with my ability to get anything done, but if I have a heavy day or two then it'll give me a tough time for a few nights. The doc reckons I'm almost the youngest person he's diagnosed with this and the physio says there's some really interesting stuff going on (oh good); execises to strengthen the muscles are helping and I'm going to take up Tai Chi. I want to be proactive and make the move before it gets bad enough to limit my opportunities.

My qualifications and work history are fairly straightforward: I did an apprenticeship in welding/fabrication, finished that, took three years out to do a degree in English Lit (and before the inevitable Arts degree abuse begins, let me just say that I took time out of putting my nose to the grindstone to do something I enjoy, and I don't regret it). This was followed by a number of years in a shift manager role at a well known and frequently mocked pub chain, it was a fairly dull paint-by-numbers role with no initiative required and I'd be hesitant to rely on it in an interview. I was good at it though - I'll blow my own trumpet here and say that I was efficient, hardworking and respected by my peers. The business took, on average, 60k a week, 100k in the run up the Christmas, and had a staff of 40-50 depending on the time of year. I was "bloody hard to replace" when I left. I then emigrated to Australia and have been working for my wife's family out in the bush, farming during busy seasons and using the metalworking skills to build equipment for them and the local community during the quiet time. I have no qualifications for the agricultural work but I've started from flat zero knowledge to having the neighbours lining up to 'borrow' me. So I'm adaptable and Aussie farmers think I'm a hard worker, which is no mean feat.

So, fairly bog standard working class type stuff; I'm a man of fairly limited skills, education, and, if I'm going to be ruthlessly honest with myself, intellectual ability. We don't all get to own or run a multimillion pound business, and until recently I've been happy with my lot in life - my kids are happy and doing well, I have a good marriage to a good woman, and I've adapted well after the hard shock of emigration. But here were are again, life has served up one of the periodic sh*t sandwiches that we all enjoy from time to time and now I have to figure out how to proceed. In two years we'll be moving to a town of 40,000 which will open up the field a lot, at this point I have little choice but to suck it up, hope the damage doesn't get too much worse, and use the time to study.

The distances involved, and sparse population, mean that networking and getting myself out there and known isn't feasible at this point, even if I had a good idea of the direction to go in. Studies are the way to go at this point, and I'm happy to pay for it myself if needs be.

I could list my strengths and weaknesses and address every point made in this thread so far but the wife is giving me the evil eye and motioning to her empty wine glass so I'll leave it here for the time being - thanks for your suggestions so far (in particular The Duke, blurp, and bobthebuilder), some good help.

So. What, of anything up there, can I build on, and what courses should I steer toward?

Thanks again guys.
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Book Reviewer
We don't all get to own or run a multimillion pound business
You're the only one on Arrse who doesn't if some posts are taken face value.

You did English Lit and enjoyed it: postgrad then tutoring? Even part-time, it's decent enough money and won't further knacker your back.

From what you say, you appear to have management experience and a degree. I cannot comment on the situation in Australia, but this would open up routes into teaching via literature after a short 1 year post graduate course. If you don't like the idea of being a teacher as such, then instructor, e.g. English as foreign language, trades at level 1 and 2, e.g. city and guilds ( in this country, uk, it is the trade that gives you the opening, the qualifications come after vis a vis teaching and you won't find them too challenging after an academic degree)

As the poster above stated, tuition. It is decent enough pay, you make a tax declaration once a year and you get people who really want to learn.

I think you have got a lot going for you here., e.g. do man and van work, along with chosen further qualifications , bearing in mind your need to preserve your back. I think the key thing is to be positive. It is a bit easy to say **** it but once a few rewards come in, it works out in the end.

On another track, I am not sure that there are too many high fliers here. There are some but I think a few white lies may be told over income and so on.
On another track, I am not sure that there are too many high fliers here. There are some but I think a few white lies may be told over income and so on.
How very dare you

There are a lot of multi millionaires who are CEO`s of multi national corporate organisations on this forum, just that they are bored with their success and inhabit a random internet forum for the comradeship and camaraderie that can only be found on a internet forces forum like this

@Whining Civvy dont do yourself down; there's plenty in that CV to build off! There aren't many people on Arrse who have managed 50 odd staff in a commercial environment....

From personal experience, getting work in small-town Australia is really hard and it is all about who you know. You could have the best CV for the role you seek, but if your pub management experience is in the UK, it'll get ignored and some spotty oil with a TAFE qualification and 6 months experience in the specific state you are in, not even interstate, will get the job. So you have to find a way to get out there and meet people in the town you want to work in. That's personal experience speaking.....I really struggled for my first few years here and I a really strong current CV when I got here.

Next, education. Are you an Australian citizen yet and if not, do you qualify? If you are, you can borrow up to $95k at very cheap rates from the government to fund university education. As your first degree was not done in Oz, you could fund either another first degree or a Masters. You only start paying back when you earn $55k or more and the repayment rates are low. I'll never pay mine off.

Next, one thing that sticks out from your life story is that your read English because you had a passion for it. So follow that passion. Contrary to the established wisdom that there is no work for English graduates, there is actually plenty and a lot of it can be done online. The Asian market is full of people wanting academic work proof read, copy writing done, bids and proposals or business documents spruced up, CVs written etc etc. I know three people around me who make a good living doing this sort of thing, working from home on line. It's like anything; you have to get out there and stand out to get the work, but once it starts to come your reputation will build and you will get more.
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Well that just made me smack my own forehead - I have heaps of experience proofreading academic essays, mostly as a favour for (I'll admit it, young, female and generally not as overwhelmingly appreciative as I'd fantasised) students for whom English is a second language. That's a stream of income right there, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. It'd be a fairly long slog gaining sufficient skills to be able to support a family on it, but hell I'm well up for that. Thanks for pointing out the obvious.

Perhaps my best approach would be to combine my degree with the management experience, have a chat with TAFE to see what courses would complement them, then speak to recruitment agencies to see what avenues that mixture would open up for me. It might be feck all that I'd want to spend the next 25 years on, but it's a start. At the same time work on the online proofreading/editing, the small successes will keep morale up and pay for my lunches if I have to start pounding pavement for work.

I'm not yet a citizen (I did the test a month ago) so the rarified levels of education are on the backburner, and as for working in pubs again...I think I'd rather put on a blindfold, piss my wife off, then let her shave my balls with a chainsaw. It'd be true desperation if I did that again.

I'm quite shocked by the suggestions on this thread that some members may be padding it a bit to make themselves look good. Arrse has always seemed a genteel bastion of civilised and honourable debate to me.
@Whining Civvy, if you are looking at gaining a management education have a look at the Australian Institute of Business Post Graduate Diploma and MBA. The MBA is designed for busy people, study is entirely online and it only takes just over a year. The Diploma can be cracked in months.

You're obviously in the citizenship loop but you won't get any dates out of DIAC, but it takes months, not years. Mine took 7 months from application and I couldn't get to tne first ceremony I was invited to. So you could do your research, set up all of the academic applications and only press the go button to start a module on the day of your citizenship ceremony.
You could do a degree and get financed by Student Finance, you also get money to live on and other benefits, especially if you have kids, it's a win win situation, you don't have to pay it t back until you are on over £21k and even then it's a minimal amount monthly, just make sure you pick a degree that interest's you and will get you the salary you want , you just about have enough time to get on this year if you are very quick.
Over the 21k its 9% of your salary Per Annum.

Choose The Open University,
Over the 21k its 9% of your salary Per Annum.

Choose The Open University,
The OP is an Australian resident and very nearly an Australian......When he is, he'll be eligible for Study Assist. He won't start repaying until he earns $54k and that will be at 4%. It climbs on incrementally to 8% for all those in over $103k. The loan is interest free.

It gets better. All of his incidental expenses (text books, exam fees, travel to seminars etc etc) are tax deductable at below the line, not at the marginal rate. And he can use his loan to study any degree course at any Australian university.

Of course, as a British citizen, he might also be eligible for a Student Loan and to study at the Open University. But why would anyone choose a high interest loan with steep payback terms when they are eligible for Study Assist?

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