2021 NSW Training Awards Winners

Meet the Award category winners of 2021.

Individual Awards Winners

2021 NSW Apprentice of the Year

Winner: Troy Harris

Qualification: Certificate III in Plumbing
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: A P Bathrooms
Region: Western Sydney & Blue Mountains Region

After working many desk jobs, Troy yearned for a hands-on career. With a growing family, he also sought job security. Coming from a family of tradespeople, plumbing was in his blood.

At TAFE NSW, Troy enjoyed exploring different aspects of the trade, engaging in class discussions about new techniques, and gaining practical insights from his skilful trainers.

At work, Troy went from assistant to head plumber. He attributes his success to the knowledgeable tradespeople he worked alongside.

Having been diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, Troy is thankful for the various learning approaches offered by VET. He adopted a hands-on, visual approach and engaged in class discussions to gain understanding.

I wouldn’t be where I am without VET. I have the skills and confidence to work in an industry I value and enjoy. As a mature age apprentice, I hope to inspire people wanting to start a trade later in life.

2021 NSW Trainee of the Year

Winner: Megan Cox

Region: Central & Northern Sydney Region
Qualification: Certificate IV in Information Technology
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: PwC Services

Megan’s interest in IT was piqued while hearing successful female innovators speak at a future of female leadership forum.

She was accepted into PwC’s Higher Apprenticeship Program, which combined with TAFE NSW training, coaches school leavers in business and IT.

Megan initially found it difficult to adjust and experienced anxiety. With the support of her training provider’s mental health services, she was soon excelling in PwC’s high-pressure, fast-paced work environment.

Megan displayed unwavering dedication to her studies and notched up impressive work achievements.

At 18, she presented to the board about employee mental health, completed a client secondment working across time zones and cultures and contributed to committees on gender equality, women in IT and the future of training.

Being surrounded by successful women changed my life. I’ve worked with experienced professionals from around the world who’ve become amazing mentors. Straight out of school, I’ve launched my career without university debt.

Alexia Lara Illawarra & South East NSW Region
Charis Inoc Riverina Region
Jack Ackling New England Region
James White Western NSW Region
Laura Walker North Coast & Mid North Coast Region
Megan Cox Central & Northern Sydney Region

2021 NSW School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year

Winner: Chelsea McInnes

Region: North Coast & Mid North Coast Region
Qualification: Certificate II in Hospitality
Trained by: Public Schools NSW, Tamworth
Employed by: The Trident Fish & Grill
School: Alstonville High School

Chelsea’s enthusiasm and passion for the hospitality industry shines brightly.

Starting out, Chelsea only knew basic customer service. Her School-Based Traineeship at The Trident Fish and Grill taught her everything about food, cooking, customer service, business management, and ethical business.

A born leader who builds a positive workplace culture and presents food at a high standard, Chelsea is now their short-order cook running an efficient front of house team and training junior staff.

Chelsea had to use her initiative from a young age. She started working at 14 to help support her single-parent family. Facing challenges gave her strength that she’s carried into adult life.

My SBAT was the best career move. It’s increased my confidence and wellbeing. If you’re looking to have it all – your HSC, extra qualifications and paid work, I highly recommend it! I’ve gained a mentor and a serious head start in a career I love.

Name Region
Chelsea McInnes North Coast & Mid North Coast Region
Hannah Walker Riverina Region
Tyler Pockran Central & Northern Sydney Region

2021 NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year

Winner: Adam Hansen

Region: Southern & South Western Sydney Region
Qualification: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: 3Bridges Community

A proud Noongar man from Western Australia, Adam now calls Sydney home.

With a unique capacity to mentor, inspire and empower young people, for over 10 years, Adam has worked with high schools to encourage Aboriginal participation in education and delivered workshops on Aboriginal cultural competency.

Upon discovering there was a TAFE NSW qualification that would allow him to facilitate workshops at a higher level, he jumped at it.

Through his studies, Adam experienced a huge boost in confidence and solidified the belief that his work is of major benefit to the community.

Upon qualifying, Adam was promoted to Aboriginal education coordinator at 3Bridges Community.

VET gave me the long-desired opportunity to step up professionally. I’m passionate and proud to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by sharing my culture. My daughter and extended family know that if I can study VET and succeed, so can they.

2021 NSW Vocational Student of the Year

Winner: Gabriella Adeline

Region: Central & Northern Sydney Region
Qualification: Certificate IV in Patisserie
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: Woodcut Restaurant

After graduating from university with a psychology degree, Gabriella felt uninspired by her career options. She decided to start again and build an exciting career pursuing her passion – pastry.

Gabriella learnt from approachable and supportive industry experts who recommended her for multiple industry opportunities and encouraged her to excel.

When Gabriella’s apprenticeship at the high-profile Hilton was cancelled due to COVID-19, Gabriella turned again to her trainers. Within three weeks, she’d undertaken two trials and received two job offers! She now resumes her apprenticeship at the illustrious restaurant Woodcut in Barangaroo.

Gabriella is proud to be selected for the Australian Pastry World Cup Team, where she’ll represent Australia at a global competition in Milan. She’s excited to showcase high-quality, native Australian ingredients to the world.

VET has changed my life. I’ve found my purpose. I get to combine my passion for food and creativity while establishing an amazing career.

Name Region
Gabriella Adeline Central & Northern Sydney Region
Rhiannan McDonald Western NSW Region
William Gasciogne Illawarra & South East NSW Region

2021 NSW VET Trainer/Teacher of the Year

Winner: Erin Jacob

Region: Hunter & Central Coast Region
Field of study: Horticulture
Employed by: Central Coast Community College

Erin designs trauma-informed programs for students who’ve experienced hardship.

Her innovative Step Forward and Keep on Stepping programs at Central Coast Community College successfully re-engage individuals in learning and facilitate pathways to education and employment.

Students are typically unemployed, at risk of homelessness and/or escaping domestic violence. With a focus on work-based skills and art therapy, students can also test drive jobs in business, IT, retail, and hospitality.

During COVID-19, Erin quickly navigated the delivery of online learning. Her trainers delivered real-life demonstrations to hundreds of at-risk participants boosting their wellbeing during this distressing period.

Due to Erin’s hard work, the college received a substantial contribution from the NSW Government to create the Step Forward Learning Centre, a safe space for trauma survivors.

We experience one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in Australia. I’m dedicated to supporting our vulnerable young by creating a safe, understanding environment in which they can learn.

Name Region
Erin Jacob Hunter & Central Coast Region
Kim Roberts Riverina Region
Robyn Edwards Illawarra & South East NSW Region

2021 NSW VET in Schools Student of the Year

Winner: Ethan Zammit

Region: Western Sydney and Blue Mountains Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Live Production and Services
Trained by: Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
School: St Mark's Catholic College

VET has opened up a world of professional entertainment opportunities for Ethan.

Ethan maintains a calm professional demeanour as he juggles competing events. He manages audiovisual budgets, equipment maintenance, and the set up and pack down of functions, concerts and expos. He loves operating sound and lighting for plays and drama/music exams.

The Parish of St John XXIII recognised Ethan’s expertise and talent by appointing him AV Coordinator. He’s the first young adult to fill the role.

During COVID-19, Ethan devised innovative ways to run events and broadcast the parish’s mass via live stream.

Ethan volunteers for the Sovereign Order of Malta Australia providing Parramatta’s homeless with clothing and hygiene products.

A standard HSC to university pathway isn't always the best option. Without alternative pathways, people like me may slip through the cracks. VET gave me crucial industry connections and empowered me to become a valuable contributor to society.

Organisation Awards Winners

2021 NSW Industry Collaboration Award

Winner: Allambi Care and Bradford Institute of Advanced Education

Collaboration title: Allambi Care and BIAE: contributing to the National Intensive Therapeutic Care Alliance through workforce development

Allambi Care, one of NSW’s largest providers of therapeutic out-of-home care, collaborated with Bradford Institute of Advanced Education (BIAE) to co-develop and deliver a diploma induction program for all frontline staff.

BIAE had to think outside the box as Allambi Care supports diverse clients including children, young people, individuals with a disability, and those affected by homelessness and abuse.

During program design, they consulted leading trauma-informed care expert Dr Howard Bath and developmental neuropsychologist Dr Paul Baker. Units focus on responding to crisis, trauma-informed care and enhancing supports around individuals at risk of suicide.

As pathway pioneers, they’ve ensured a career pathway for those who’ve never viewed a diploma or long-term employment as a possibility.

CEO sponsorship, sensible risk management and an extended development phase supported program success, resulting in 95% completion rates, a reduction in staff turn over, and importantly, superior services for vulnerable young people seeking care.

2021 NSW Large Employer of the Year

Winner: Peter Warren Automotive Holdings

Founded in a used car yard in 1958, Peter Warren Automotive is now home to 13 new car franchises on a 22-acre site in south-west Sydney.

Staff learning and development is critical as every business facet from sales to after-market care relies on exceptional product knowledge, adaptation to changing technologies and quality customer service.

With an investment of over $50,000, the new Peter Warren Automotive D.R.I.V.E Academy strengthens their commitment to developing exceptional apprentices. This one-of-a-kind collaboration with TAFE NSW integrates on-the-job and off-the-job training for 120 technical apprentices.

As Peter Warren’s aspirations turn towards renewable energies, they’re also upskilling technicians in new technologies for hybrid and electrical vehicles.

Passionate about developing career progression for women, over 25% of Peter Warren’s workforce are female, well above the industry average of 18%.

Peter’s sons wholeheartedly continue their father’s legacy: a belief that skills development underpins social prosperity and enables inclusive growth.

2021 NSW Medium Employer of the Year

Winner: BackTrack Works

BackTrack Works is an innovative social enterprise that helps vulnerable New England young people gain training and experience to thrive in independent employment.

BackTrack's mission is to keep kids alive, out of jail and chasing their dreams. Their ethos is ‘as long as it takes.’

Their cohort has complex needs including low educational attainment, welfare dependency, substance abuse, unstable housing, and psychological distress.

BackTrack's transition coordinator manages each learner’s journey identifying their dreams, outlining strategies to overcome barriers, and activating support, mentoring, education, and employment.

Since 2018, BackTrack Works has grown from hosting six young employees to managing 30 with 61% of annual revenue from self-generated income.

Delivering services in agriculture, construction, asset maintenance, and fabrication, they boast a 90% trainee retention rate with 93% avoiding criminal charges.

Participants see the results of their labour first-hand, rewriting negative internalised beliefs and empowering them to make a meaningful contribution to society.

2021 NSW Training Provider of the Year

Winner: Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

Located in fast-growing Western Sydney, the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) provides an innovative, personalised and relevant education to 80 vibrant school communities.

VET is offered from year 7 so students can develop their gifts, explore the world of work and kick-start their career.

The CEDP has piloted many successful initiatives that are being scaled across the diocese.

These include the Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways course, which significantly improves NAPLAN results, year 9 access to Stage 6 VET so students can complete HSC in year 10 and undertake further VET, university units or part-time employment, and partnering with NSW Health to deliver certificate III accreditations.

Bucking the national trend, CEDP’s VET enrolments have grown by 45%. CEDP also boasts the largest number of traditional trade SBATs in NSW.

Agile, innovative and constantly improving, CEDP produces skilled, job-ready graduates to meet business needs in the Western Sydney corridor.

People's Choice Awards Winners

2021 NSW People’s Choice Award for Apprentice of the Year

Winner: Benjamin Lye

Region: New England Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Parks and Gardens
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: Tamworth Regional Council

Benjamin was raised on a small farm where he loved helping his father work their veggie crop.

After being medically discharged from the army with PTSD, Benjamin rediscovered his joy of gardening.

In his mid-thirties, he started from scratch embracing the challenge of an apprenticeship while providing for a young family.

His apprenticeship gave him a renewed sense of purpose. He enjoyed taking new apprentices under his wing and his can-do attitude was rewarded with a promotion to operator before finishing his apprenticeship.

Despite the difficulties of transitioning from army rifleman to apprentice, coupled with managing PTSD, Benjamin persisted with support from his employer and TAFE NSW.

Now his biggest challenge is parenting three children – including a toddler!

I’m proof that a veteran can start again and find happiness. I urge people to get their life back on track through VET. Take a leap of faith and try a new profession!

2021 NSW People’s Choice Award for Trainee of the Year

Winner: Jack Ackling

Region: New England Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Rural Operations
Trained by: Joblink Plus Ltd
Employed by: BackTrack Works Ltd

Jack loves working with livestock and hopes to follow in his family’s footsteps and become a farmer.

Jack joined BackTrack as a 16-year-old with little work or life experience. His training with Joblink Plus improved his confidence, pride and self-esteem. He was quickly promoted and now aspires to become a BackTrack supervisor.

Jack has faced personal hurdles on his training journey. Along with multiple house moves and income shortfalls, Jack had to overcome his doubts about his learning abilities. Maintaining a positive attitude has shown Jack he can succeed.

Jack gained his forklift, excavator and bobcat tickets, allowing him to become a more flexible employee. He also mentors younger trainees, interpreting difficult concepts and mediating on their behalf.

By applying myself and focussing on completing my qualification, I’ve gained respect from my peers and family. Friends have seen these rewards and have also been motivated to study and see it through.

2021 NSW People’s Choice Award for School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year

Winner: Tyler Pockran

Region: Central & Northern Sydney Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Commercial Cookery
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: Tetsuya's Restaurant
School: Blaxland High School

Tyler has always wanted to be a chef. In year 10, he took initiative beyond his years and approached Tetsuya’s about school holiday work experience. They said yes!

Soon Tyler learned he could continue his HSC through a school-based apprenticeship while fast-tracking his career.

Dramatically improving his skills and adapting quickly to fast-paced situations, Tyler has thrived at the world-class restaurant. His technical pastry skills have ensured he’s a valuable member of Tetsuya’s team.

Tyler’s biggest challenge was finding the right trade school. It was hard leaving his friends behind and he had to change schools twice. Luckily Blaxland High School was a great fit.

My course changed me personally and professionally. Everyday I’m ready to give 100% no matter what. We’ve quickly gone from being a team to becoming a family. An SBAT should be at the forefront of every student’s mind. I’m so happy I’m achieving my dream.

2021 NSW People’s Choice Award for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year

Winner: Maddison Peisley

Region: Illawarra & South East NSW Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Business Administration
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: Southern Youth and Family Services Ltd

After participating in AIME mentoring, where Indigenous students guide young people to aspire towards university, Maddison was inspired to stay in school, pursue youth work and make the world a better place.

When her administration traineeship with Southern Youth and Family Services was cut short due to COVID-19, a premature baby and medical complications, Maddison didn’t let these hurdles dampen her determination.

A motivated self-starter, Maddison persisted with her studies and successfully completed her certificate within her original training contract term – her greatest achievement yet.

Maddison is an inspiring role model for her family and enjoys mentoring others though her Indigenous women’s support group.

I grew up experiencing racism. I avoided telling people I was Indigenous. I don’t want young people to experience that. Everyone deserves to get where they want to be. I want young Indigenous women to know they can succeed, even when things don’t go as planned.

Special Industry Awards Winners

2021 NSW Special Award for a Woman in a Non-Traditional Trade/Vocation

Althea Kruizinga

Region: Illawarra & South East NSW Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
Trained by: TAFE NSW
Employed by: HVTC Pty Ltd
Hosted by: BlueScope Steel Limited

Althea loved the idea of becoming an electrician, but feared a mature-aged female wouldn’t be accepted in a male-dominated trade. When she met two female electricians working at Sydney’s Equinix SY3 data centre, it changed her life.

After a discouraging string of rejections, Althea secured an apprenticeship at BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plant.

Exposed to a huge variety of electrical concepts and equipment, Althea rotated between departments constantly expanding her skill base.

Adapting to an all-male workplace was daunting, but Althea’s tenacity paid off. Althea won the BlueScope Apprentice of the Year in her very first year.

Now a full-time electrical tradesperson at BlueScope with plans to commence a Diploma of Electrical Engineering, Althea is a passionate advocate for women in non-traditional trades.

There’s a distinct lack of career pathways presented to talented women who show an interest in male-dominated careers. I want to play a part in changing that.

2021 NSW Encouragement Award

Rhiannan McDonald

Region: Western NSW Region
Qualification: Certificate III in Individual Support
Trained by: TAFE NSW

While working as a disability support officer, Rhiannan was inspired to pursue her dream of becoming an aged care nurse.

With credits from her disability support certificate under belt, she only had to undertake seven units to get certified. Determined to achieve her goal, Rhiannan qualified in only eight weeks!

Growing up, Rhiannan suffered water on the brain and seizures resulting in speech impairment and learning difficulties. She struggled at high school and was told she’d never go to university.

With access to VET learning and support services, Rhiannan discovered she has the brains to achieve anything she sets her mind to. She is thrilled to be commencing a Bachelor of Nursing at Western Sydney University.

I’m proof that VET is for everyone. My speech impairment taught me that everyone has the right to express themselves and make choices. I hope to inspire people with a disability to study and achieve.


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