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On Monday 16 August, Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney announced 43 finalists in the 67th Victorian Training Awards, which recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals and organisations in the Victorian TAFE and training sector.

Congratulations to all of the 2021 Victorian Training Awards Finalists. Winners will be announced on Saturday 16 October.

Learn more about this year's finalists below.

  • Apprentice of the Year Finalists 2021

    Stephanie Pemberton

    • South West TAFE
    • Certificate III Parks and Gardens

    Stephanie was originally inspired in the vocational education sector by her love of hairdressing, until her world was turned upside down by realising that she had an allergy to hair-colouring products and had to make a career change. She fell into a contract position on the Parks and Garden team at her local Corangamite Shire Council, where she became enthralled by working outdoors in nature. Knowing she loved to learn and to teach others, she sought a TAFE qualification to learn from the best teachers in the industry and set herself up for the long-term.

    Andrew Jan

    • TERRA / Bendigo TAFE
    • Certificate III in Plumbing

    Andrew has had wide-ranging life experience prior to becoming a mature-aged apprentice in his 30s. He had an extensive career in the thoroughbred industry and, after 18 years as a volunteer firefighter, he has risen to the highest rank of Group Officer of the Coliban Group of the Country Fire Authority. In choosing to study a Certificate III in Plumbing at Bendigo TAFE, Andrew was motivated to find a career that provided both stability and an environment that challenged his innate curiosity and problem-solving skills.

    Felicity Barnett

    • The Gordon TAFE
    • Certificate III in Commercial Cookery

    Felicity always loved cooking for her family and friends when she was growing up and is still thrilled when she sees people's faces beam after they taste the food that she has designed and made. A Geelong native, she loves working in the city’s burgeoning restaurant, bar and cafe scene.

  • Trainee Finalists 2021 image

    Samantha Brown

    • Federation University TAFE
    • Diploma of Nursing

    Always intrigued by nursing, Samantha realised when she finished high school that she wasn't ready to make a career choice. She sought work experience, working for several years as a conveyancer and then in a fast-paced role managing a top hotel in Ballarat. With her interest in nursing never waning, she tested the waters through the Traineeship model, first enrolling in a Certificate III of Individual and Ageing Support. This course convinced Samantha that she wanted to pursue a vocational training pathway, and she then enrolled in a Diploma of Nursing.

    Emma Dreverman

    • Squad
    • Certificate III in Business

    Emma was drawn to a career path that combined theoretical and practical skills which brought together the worlds of business and renewable energy. She is motivated by sustainability in business practice, seeing it as essential to any organisation's future. Training through Squad, a not-for-profit employment and training organisation, has also allowed her to develop her communication and organisational skills, ultimately helping her to perform a managerial role within her workplace.

    Jake Seuren

    • TAFE Gippsland (Warragul Campus)
    • Certificate IV in Agriculture

    Jake liked and excelled in school and, after his final VCE exams, he considered what many thought to be the natural next step – a university degree. However, Jake realised that his love has always been to work on a farm like the one he grew up on in Gippsland. He says that he "loves working with animals, open spaces, machinery and the satisfaction of nurturing and growing the land." Jake chose vocational education to gain the required skills and knowledge to manage all aspects of his dairy farm operation.

  • Vocational Student Finalists 2021 image

    Josh Allison

    • Box Hill Institute
    • Diploma of Sport Development

    Following a distinguished career as a professional athlete in which he represented Australia in wheelchair basketball in the World Championship winning team in 2014 and then again at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Josh transitioned into coaching in the sport in 2018. This move made him want to learn more about the logistics and administration in professional sport. He enrolled in the Diploma of Sport Development at Box Hill Institute and completed that degree in 2020, becoming the first graduate from the diploma to transfer straight into teaching at the Box Hill Institute. At the same time, he has continued to volunteer in coaching for all abilities of basketball.

    Samantha Daly

    • Swinburne University of Technology
    • Certificate IV in Mental Health

    Determined to find a silver lining after losing her job at the onset of the global pandemic, Samantha applied to study the dual Certificate IV in Mental Health and Mental Health Peer Work. Samantha spent the seven years prior rebuilding her life and recovering from a major brain injury. Inspired by her personal connections to mental health and using her unique lived experience of recovery, Samantha overcame initial fears and doubts about returning to study as a mature-aged student. She feels strongly about developing her theoretical knowledge and gaining practical expertise so that she can offer genuine help and meaningful support to others.

    Maria Kelly

    • Gordon Institute of TAFE
    • Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design

    After a career in journalism and teaching in the Philippines, Maria taught herself graphic design well enough that she built a sustainable career as a part-time freelance graphic designer. Wanting to advance her career in the field and seek the perspectives of experts and peers, she ventured to enrol in an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design. Maria is motivated by a desire to communicate through visual and other non-verbal messages. Having experience in cross-cultural teaching, she continues to value the teaching and communication potential that graphic design can achieve.

  • School-based Apprentice or Trainee Finalists 2021

    Massimo Zurzolo

    • Kangan Institute of TAFE - ACE / Montague Continuing Education Centre
    • Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

    Massimo Zurzolo’s passion is to learn about all aspects of cars – their mechanics, their designs, and their engineering. This is an impressive goal in itself – made all the more so by the fact that Massimo has overcome deafness to pursue it. He is incredibly ambitious, balancing part-time work at Melbourne BMW as part of his school-based automotive apprenticeship, studying Year 12, completing coursework at the Kangan Institute as part of the Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology, and studying Auslan at night. Massimo wants to use the practical skills from his work at Melbourne BMW as a springboard to a career in the industry, with the aim of specialising in new and emerging technologies and leading innovation in the electric motor vehicles sector.

    Steven Hull

    • Murray Mallee Group Training / Castlemaine Secondary College
    • Certificate III in Agriculture

    For as long as he can remember, Steven Hull wanted to have a career in agriculture. He began by marking sheep at the age of five on a family friend’s sheep farm. After developing connections with the Sutton Grange and Myrtle Creek Fire Brigade, a casual conversation one day with one of the Brigade's members led to him being offered weekend work at one of the larger sheep stations in the area. This turned into formal work experience and then a school-based traineeship program through Castlemaine Secondary College and Murray Mallee Training Group.

    Laura Davidson

    • Sunraysia Institute of TAFE / Mildura Senior College
    • Certificate III in Hairdressing

    Laura Davidson has had a passion for hairdressing since she was nine years old, when she told the owner of her local salon that she wanted to work there one day. She taught herself braiding and other techniques by watching YouTube videos and practising on herself and her friends. In Year 9, she commenced a Certificate II in Salon Assistance, before beginning casual work at a boutique hair salon in Mildura. Laura lives in the south-west NSW town of Gol Gol and travels to Mildura for her schoolwork at Mildura Senior College, her training at Sunraysia Institute of TAFE Mildura and her practical work at the salon.

  • Koorie Student Finalists 2021

    Stephen Cranage

    • GOTAFE
    • Certificate IV in Cyber Security

    Stephen is a proud descendant of the Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri peoples who, when growing up in the 1980s, begged his mum for a Commodore 64 computer. Soon after, he went from simple gaming to reverse coding, and a love affair with computing was born. This fascination simmered until Stephen noticed that his local GOTAFE campus in Shepparton offered a free Certificate IV in Cyber Security, and he returned to study as a mature age student in his 40s.

    Lucas Price

    • Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited
    • Certificate IV in Community Services

    A proud Gunditjmarra man from the Framlingham mission in Victoria's Western Districts with a deep connection to his community. Lucas was motivated to be in a position where he could use his lived experience to provide direct support to those in the community who are overrepresented in the justice system and who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions and intergenerational trauma.

    Shaikhani Fewings

    • Crown College
    • Certificate III in Commercial Cookery

    Shaikhani grew up in a home where her grandparents’ homemade cooking was at the centre of family and community gatherings. For Shaikhani, "food is life" and she couldn't imagine doing anything else. She has always been engaged with her local community, taking part in a traditional dancing group run by her Aunty and volunteering for NAIDOC week and school workshops. Shaikhani hopes to use her inherited love of community engagement to bring together different groups and create stronger student and employment outcomes.

  • Teacher Trainer Finalists 2021 Image

    Scott Hopkins

    • SuniTAFE
    • Certificate IV in Leadership and Management, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Certificate II in Retail

    Scott has developed a long and successful career in the retail industry, including managing all three of Mildura's McDonald’s stores over the last 15 years. He is driven to adapt his teaching to suit the distinct needs of local service providers and students. Scott recently designed and taught a leadership program for aged care staff to help them manage a rapidly expanding workforce. He is also passionate about using storytelling as a way of teaching students with only basic levels of English literacy.

    Michelle McNab

    • GOTAFE
    • Certificate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology, Certificate IV in Cyber Security

    After twelve years working in IT Support and management roles, Michelle transitioned into similar support roles at GOTAFE. The TAFE’s Business Manager quickly noticed Michelle’s gift for teaching other staff, particularly her patience and ability to communicate complex concepts in approachable terms. Michelle was encouraged to become a teacher at GOTAFE, which she has now done for four years. She has rekindled a love of teaching she remembers from her first instances of coaching basketball when she was 14. Michelle says: "I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back I was destined to teach."

    Julie Kramer

    • Bendigo TAFE, Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing and Community Care)

    Julie tested the waters of teaching in 2011 by providing classroom support to students in a Certificate III for Aged Care qualification. After receiving brilliant feedback from the trainers in that course, Julie pursued a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and pursued an ongoing role as a teacher and trainer. Julie has a passion for learning styles and developing distinct teaching approaches for the different needs of the many students in her courses.

  • Small Employer Finalists 2021

    Swell Constructions

    • Mornington

    Swell Constructions is a Melbourne-based construction company, passionate about blending modern design carpentry works with environmental sustainability. Through investment in quality training of its staff, Swell Constructions have built a flourishing work culture of care and precision, as well as making custom-built sustainable building more affordable. The company is serious about its own environmental responsibility, partnering with a leading environmental not-for-profit organisation, Greenfleet, to explore carbon offsets and other ways to reduce the environmental impact of its work.

    Mansfield Armchair Cinema

    • Mansfield

    The Mansfield Armchair Cinema opened in response to the closure of the community's cherished Star Cinema in 2006. The founders of Mansfield Armchair Cinema, James and Catriona, were motivated to somehow provide a new cinema to the community so that it could function as the social hub like it always had. Developing a sustainable business plan, they teamed up with Mansfield Secondary College to provide students with the opportunity to learn how to run a dynamic business. Training is offered in the areas of customer service, business, hospitality and marketing, with a Certificate III in Business Management or a Certificate III in Hospitality available upon completion of apprenticeship training, as well as 10 per cent worth of credits towards students' VCE results.

    Bellarine Bakehouse

    • Newcomb

    Starting as one small bakery and café site seven years ago, Bellarine Bakehouse has now expanded to operate contracts for several of Geelong's largest and most important venues, including the Botanical Gardens Tea House. Business owner Paul Field is a qualified, experienced baker and a former Bakery and Patisserie TAFE Trainer who values investing in the training and upskilling of his staff. The business is passionate about employing people with disabilities. It initially offered focussed training through the National Disability Insurance Scheme and now uses its own resources to continue to prioritise employing people with disabilities. Bellarine Bakehouse also uses innovative training techniques tailor-made for the region, including running Certificate III in-house workshops in baking for Registered Training Organisations.

  •  Medium Employer Finalist 2021

    CPE Construction

    • Cobram

    CPE Construction has used training as a central pillar of its growth from a company that built farm-style sheds to one that works on multi-million-dollar construction projects across Victoria. The company recognised the COVID-19 pandemic as an obstacle to some work but relished the opportunity to train staff, with 20 per cent of its staff currently enrolled in accredited training. This includes seven apprentices who are studying a Certificate III in either Plumbing or Steel Fabrication, and one HR Manager who is completing the double Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management and HR.

  • Large Employer Finalists 2021 Image


    • Collingwood

    McDonald's employs over 27,000 staff in Victoria. As a large employer of Victoria's youth, McDonald's seeks to develop a culture of positivity and growth so that its trainees can develop in the retail and customer service industries – whether within McDonald's or outside of the company. It currently has 890 trainees and facilitates training in Food Safety Supervision, Certificate II in Retail Services and Certificate III in Retail, as well as offering on-the-job management training pathways to suit trainees of varying needs.

    Metro Trains

    • Docklands

    Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM) is the franchise operator that runs and maintains Melbourne's world-class metropolitan rail network. It has over 6,400 employees and partners with the state government to deliver some of the key infrastructure projects currently being built in Melbourne, including the Metro Tunnel project. MTM works closely with Victoria's TAFE and training sector to recruit and train people in these skills shortage areas, ensuring that trainees are ready for specific roles at the completion of their training.

    Swan Plumbing Supplies

    • Narre Warren

    Swan Plumbing has grown from a three-person business operating out of a single shopfront 67 years ago to a nation-wide company with 35 branches and 200 staff members. Swan sees training as a key investment in creating a dynamic culture to succeed in an ever-challenging but rewarding industry. It maintains links with key industry group the Plumbing Merchants Association and its Women in Plumbing group. Swan is committed to improving female participation in plumbing and is proud to have women comprise a quarter of its current 200-staff workforce.

  • Terra Firma Laboratories

    • Pakenham

    Terra Firma Laboratories conducts both field and laboratory analysis of geosynthetics, soil and rock materials for civil engineering and construction projects. It invests in training as a way of ensuring that staff can build a sustainable career in the construction materials testing industry, including being equipped with transferable skills in a rapidly changing sector. Terra Firma combines a theoretical training program with practical, on-the-job training, and facilitates its new trainees to gain a nationally recognised MSL40118 Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques.

    Mercury Marine

    • Dandenong

    Mercury Marine is a global marine engine manufacturer that provides product sales, technical support and training for employees in its dealer network. For the last few years, it has worked hard with its dealers in Australia and New Zealand as well as industry groups to identify a skills shortage for qualified Marine Technicians. Partnering with its Victorian dealer base and using its innovative “Mercury Academy”, a career pathway was developed for Head Start School-based Apprentices to sign up and qualify for a Certificate III in Marine Mechanical Technology.

    Gforce & Barwon Water

    • Geelong

    Gforce is a Group Training Organisation operating in Geelong and Barwon Water is Victoria's largest regional urban water provider. Gforce is passionate about giving employment opportunities to the region's disadvantaged youth and others through apprenticeships and traineeships. Gforce and Barwon Water have partnered to deliver a traineeship program with a common goal of creating employment opportunities in the region. The traineeship program, now in its sixth year, provides early career pathways through on-the-job work experience, education and a nationally recognised accreditation. The program is building a more diverse and inclusive organisation, and supports the shared vision for an economically, socially and environmentally prosperous region.

  • Community Training Provider Finalists 2021

    Wellsprings for Women

    • Dandenong

    Wellsprings for Women offers more than 50 programs for over 350 women per week in one of Victoria's most diverse communities in the Dandenong area. The organisation builds and maintains social connections in this community of women, which allows it to anticipate future areas of need for services. Its services cover education, employment, health and wellbeing, case management and support aimed at enabling women and their children to live safe lives free from violence.

    Cire Services Inc

    • Lilydale

    Cire Services is one of the largest not-for-profits in the Yarra Valley region and has historically provided education and training in a range of areas such as financial literacy, social media, personal resilience, business resilience, and alternative learning programs for school-aged children. In 2020 and 2021, it responded to the needs of local residents and businesses by smoothly transitioning to online learning. It also maintained its long history of grassroots community actions by taking the initiative to loan to its students laptops, monitors, chairs and desks. In 2020 it also expanded its programs targeted at women, including a mentoring program and a domestic violence support program.

    Williamstown Community and Education Centre

    • Williamstown

    Williamstown Community and Education Centre run community education and employment programs across five sites in Melbourne's western suburbs. The organisation prides itself on having increased the number and range of services on offer to the diverse community within the area in recent years. It provides traditional services such as digital literacy training and English Language programs for culturally and linguistically diverse learners, while also recently introducing innovative classes in yoga, meditation, acting and music.

  • Inclusive Training Provider Finalists 2021

    Box Hill Institute

    Box Hill Institute has focused on three main areas in seeking to become an inclusive training provider: partnerships with Disability Service Providers; applied research into universal design in vocational education; and ensuring that supports are in place for all students whether or not they disclose a disability.

    Victoria University

    Victoria University (VU) is one of only six dual sector universities in Australia to offer both TAFE qualifications and university degrees, with easy transition between courses at all levels. VU is located in the western region of Melbourne where its roots stem back to 1916 as a technical college. It has a moral purpose to transform the lives of students from diverse countries, cultures, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds as well as the communities it serves. VU provides high quality, engaging career-based tertiary education at all levels of vocational and higher education with flexible entry and exit points, appropriate pathways, student support, and contemporary curriculum and delivery.

    Bendigo Kangan Institute

    As a large training provider to more than 22,000 students, Bendigo Kangan Institute has focused on meeting the needs of students of different gender, sexuality, cultural background, age and ability through developing innovative structures, practices and staff training. In addition to being the right thing to do, the organisation believes that inclusivity and diversity strengthens the Kangan Institute and Bendigo TAFE by fostering dialogue between its students, staff and other stakeholders, and making for a more comfortable, open learning environment.

  • Small Training Provider Finalists 2021

    NECA Education and Careers

    NECA Education and Careers is the training arm of the National Electrical and Communications Association, the peak industry body for electricians. It delivers pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and post-trade training, and currently partners with 308 electrical employers. The organisation used the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to invest in online learning infrastructure, staff development, and industry-wide consultation of skill shortages and training needs.

    Builders Academy Australia

    Builders Academy Australia delivers accredited training for the building and construction industry, from vocational and educational training in high schools through to the Advanced Diploma level. Its training model places industry experience at the forefront of teaching, with a belief that builders make the best building teachers – much like the master and apprentice model. But it is committed to incorporating modern and varied styles of learning, including innovative virtual simulation of worksites, which became important when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented in-person learning.

    Master Builders Association of Victoria

    The Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBV) is a peak industry body that provides training and advocacy services for the state's construction industry. MBV undertakes thorough pre-training reviews, language literacy and numeracy (LLN) assessments and offers specialised learning support through the entire student learning journey. MBV has invested heavily in its remote training delivery infrastructure, including methods like gamification and e-learning. It has also pioneered the use of immersive learning on simulated construction environments in its training and assessment delivery.

  • Large Training Provider Finalists 2021

    William Angliss Institute

    William Angliss Institute is Australia’s largest specialist centre for foods, tourism, hospitality and events education and training. The Institute operates locally and internationally, delivering short courses and vocational training in schools through to certificate, diploma, degree and master’s programs across its campuses and workplaces in Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore and offshore. Recognising the impacts of COVID-19 in Asia early on during the global pandemic, the Institute was well prepared with its experience in Singapore and China to transition quickly in Australia to remote learning. Maintaining excellence for students included having its cookery teachers running practical demonstrations from their own home kitchens and welcoming over 100 guest lecturers from the industry.

    Chisholm Institute

    Chisholm Institute is one of the largest training providers in Victoria and offers a wide range of qualifications, from VCE/VCAL, certificates, diplomas, degrees and postgraduate courses. It also offers a variety of short courses and skill sets to enable quick upskilling in areas of skill shortages. The organisation quickly pivoted in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It ensured that it had the technology to transition to online and hybrid models of quality teaching and learning, and offered students increased counselling and support services. It invested in IT infrastructure and organisational governance and gave teachers ongoing training to ensure that they felt confident in the new method of virtual teaching.

    Box Hill Institute

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Box Hill Institute immediately focused on three pillars of resilience: mental health, physical safety and educational continuity. This strategy helped not only its students and trainees but also its teachers and other staff. It scaled up digital literacy training for staff to ensure that they felt empowered to use virtual teaching technologies. During Victoria’s state-wide lockdowns, teachers kept 2000 apprentices engaged and on track. Further, for those who had lost their work because of the pandemic, Box Hill Institute helped them to find other temporary employment and assisted them to return to work once state-wide lockdowns had lifted.

  • Industry Collaboration Award Finalists 2021

    Victoria Police Diversity Recruitment Program

    The Victoria Police Diversity Recruitment Program is a national-first program that aims to improve employment outcomes for African Australians within the Victorian police force. The program seeks to increase the representation of African Australians in Victoria Police, contributing to a police force that is reflective of the community it services while building trust and understanding with African Australian communities. The program is a collaboration between Victoria Police, Victoria University, Jesuit Social Services Limited, Africause, Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES), Matchworks and Maurice Blackburn. Participants are supported to overcome barriers in language, literacy, numeracy, legal and cultural understandings, fitness and swimming ability.

    Wodonga TAFE, Transport Women Australia and Volvo Australia

    The Women Driving Transport Careers program aims to diversify the transport industry workforce to solve employee and skills shortages. For such a large industry in Victoria, only 4 per cent of transport drivers are women. The program seeks to engage with industry to get a better understanding of the job-ready skills required for entry-level driving positions, advocates for industry to adjust recruitment and diversity strategy, and provides extensive training to participants to reduce barriers for employment in the industry.

    CYP Design & Construction / Holmesglen Institute Collaboration

    Recognising that Victoria is experiencing one of the greatest infrastructure booms in the nation's history, three construction companies (Lendlease, John Holland and Bouygues) have partnered with Holmesglen to upskill Victorians to meet the needs of one of the major infrastructure projects in Victoria’s Big Build program, the Metro Tunnel Project. Its twin strategies are MetroHub, a project-specific jobs and training centre, and the Victorian Tunnelling Centre, a national-first tunnelling training centre that combines real-life machine training and simulated tunnelling training environments. Both strategies aim to make training more accessible to all people, including priority job seekers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Reviewed 09 September 2021

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