Chelsea McInnes wins regional training award

Alstonville High School student Chelsea McInnes continued her march towards the NSW Training Awards finals by taking out the 2021 School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year for North Coast & Mid North Coast at a recent ceremony in Coffs Harbour.

The award was a well-deserved win for the student who is currently pursuing a Certificate II in Hospitality at The Trident Fish & Grill through Alstonville High School and RTO Public Schools NSW, Tamworth. It was also an emotional moment for Chelsea and two of her biggest supporters, her mum Fiona and SBAT Mentor Toni Bellos.

“It was such a great night and I made sure I gave mum, my employer and Toni a shout out when I went up to get my award,” says Chelsea.

Image: Chelsea McInnes the 2021 School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year for North Coast & Mid North Coast

The Year 12 student has now completed a full day of prep at the Training Services NSW Lismore office before submitting to a series of interviews.

“The interviews are designed to determine the candidate’s suitability for an ambassador role, so they’ll be looking for people with the right attributes, and people who are able to share their stories in ways that inspire other students,” says Toni.

Chatting to Chelsea it’s easy to imagine her being a natural during the interviews. Articulate, community minded and passionate about VET, the student we met in Episode 6 of EPPP TV is definitely made of the right stuff.

“As soon as I started my SBAT, I was promoting it,” says Chelsea.

“An SBAT offers you opportunities to do the HSC differently. So when Toni told me that she had spoken with my employer to nominate me for the Training Awards, I jumped at it.”

Taking opportunities as they come along is one thing, but Chelsea has proven to be pretty good at creating them, too. Eighteen months ago, Chelsea helped to develop Alstonville High School’s Breakfast Club after discovering that a number of students, for many reasons, were turning up to school without having breakfast.

“A lot of kids were coming to school without having had breakfast and it was affecting their learning,” says Chelsea.

Chelsea, her friends and the hospitality faculty rallied together and before long they were serving up tasty toasties and fruit smoothies two days a week. Today, about half the student body enjoys wholesome brekkies before school starts for the day due to this initiative.

As for her traineeship, Chelsea couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out.

“I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was eight-years old,” says Chelsea.

“I just love cooking food, being around people and serving the community, so it’s always been on my agenda. But it was Toni who said, ‘you could do this.’”

Chelsea had a leg up on a lot of other aspiring SBATs in that she already had an employer. Prior to starting her traineeship, Chelsea was working at Trident Fish and Grill in a casual capacity. When Toni approached Chelsea's employer, Christian Photiou, about the possibility of doing a traineeship, he didn’t hesitate to take her on. Christian was a previous SBAT at Alstonville High, so he completely understood the process and benefits.

“Chelsea is not simply content to go to work and receive an income,” says Karen Horne, the Careers Adviser at Alstonville.

“She is motivated to consider self-directed learning to achieve more competencies and to set herself up for more training in the future, and her employer recognised that.”

Today, Chelsea has her sights firmly set on what’s next.

“Next year, I’m going in to a full-time position with Trident Fish and Grill in a management role where I’ll be working in the cafe and mentoring junior staff,” says Chelsea.

It’s a great outcome for the Alstonville student, but we can’t help but feel she’s forgetting something. If Chelsea keeps going the way she has been, there might be more cause for celebration before she takes up her full-time job. The NSW Training Awards are coming up in September, after all.

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