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The Minister for Training and Skills, The Hon Gayle Tierney MP, has announced 40 finalists in the 69th Victorian Training Awards, which recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals and organisations in the Victorian vocational education sector.

Congratulations to all of the 2023 Victorian Training Awards Finalists. Winners will be announced on Friday, 18 August 2023.

Learn more about this year's finalists.

2023 Victorian Training Award finalists

  • Hannah Grau

    When her career counselor recommended hairdressing or nursing as career paths, Hannah said no, she wanted to pursue a trade. She wanted a job where she could say, I helped build that. Her vocation was found in the Certificate III in Electrotechnology through NECA Education and Careers.

    Construction had always piqued Hannah’s interest and she threw herself into her career path with gusto. She was the one to volunteer for extra tasks onsite, and when colleagues comment that she gets the jobs that no one wants, Hannah says there are no bad jobs, just opportunities for new perspectives.

    Leela Subramaniam

    Leela’s cookery career began after a family tragedy. She’d been working part-time in hospitality while undertaking a Bachelor of Laws and Commerce when her father died. Unable to concentrate on studies, Leela withdrew, commenced Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at Chisholm, and transitioned to apprentice chef at work.

    On completing her apprenticeship in 2022, she was promoted to junior sous chef. Her head chef proudly declared that a graduate being promoted to a leadership role was unheard of. Now, Leela helps run the kitchen and leads a team of 8 during busy shifts, ensuring that each meal exiting the kitchen is perfect.

    Tia Claire Webb

    A highlight of Tia’s life was choosing hairdressing as a career. Initially attending university to become a teacher, she soon realised that she was more of a hands-on person, so she segued into a hairdressing apprenticeship and completed the Certificate III in Hairdressing at Bendigo TAFE.

    A strong work ethic in the salon resulted in additional leadership opportunities, mentoring work experience students and demonstrating for fellow apprentices. Locked into success, Tia’s won a raft of awards including a bronze medal at WorldSkills and Perpetual Hairdressing Outstanding Achiever Award in recognition of her skill and commitment to training.

  • Rebecca Hope

    Rebecca worked at the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions (DJSIR) while studying the Certificate IV in Business through NECA Education and Careers. This might not seem so extraordinary but succeeding in this is, having once struggled to attend school without one-on-one support because of autism. Now she thrives in the world of human resources and is a guiding light for disability awareness.

    Success in the employment programs team led to developing effective coping strategies and instigating such initiatives as disability support services directory for her workplace. Rebecca has full-time employment as a program coordinator at Amaze, Victoria’s autism peak body delivering initiatives that enhance the lives of autistic people.

    Dianne Montgomery

    Dianne was inspired to embark on a major career change for the love of her son, who struggles with mental health issues. She jumped from a career she enjoyed as a delicatessen manager in a supermarket, into an even more rewarding and fulfilling career in disability.

    Needing a structure that allowed her to earn an income while completing a formal qualification, she undertook a Certificate IV in Disability with The Centre for Continuing Education to become a disability support worker. She fully immersed herself in her studies and utilised her experience to empower people with disabilities to achieve greater independence, self-reliance, community participation and well-being.

    Gabriel Gervasoni

    Gabriel envisions a bright future in information technology. He’s completed various IT certificates and in 2022 completed a Diploma of Information Technology. Gabriel’s passion for working in the IT industry was driven by his goal of developing apps and software to improve the lives of people like him who live with disabilities.

    Despite having profound vision impairment since birth, Gabriel’s done his best not to let his disability define or confine him and he shares his insights and knowledge with the broader vision impaired community. Gabriel’s selfless advocacy has enabled him and others to fully experience their educational and employment journey.

  • Barbara Muller

    Barbara’s lifelong dream was to study buildings. Fascinated with construction and design, she wanted to understand how buildings were constructed. This led to her enrolling in the Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) at Federation TAFE.

    The course elevated her self-confidence and problem-solving skills. She took on leadership roles and mentored fellow students who needed help. After completing her studies in 2022, she was awarded the EJT Tippett Outstanding Achievement Award at Federation TAFE. Now, she’s heading confidently into a career in the building and construction industry, and has begun the Certificate IV of Training and Assessment to become a VET trainer.

    Nick Roberts

    It wasn’t a half-baked notion for Nick to go from working in government communications and events to becoming a pastry chef. In 2022 he returned to tertiary studies to upskill and complete a Certificate III in Patisserie at The Gordon in Geelong, and pursue a lifelong passion for baking. Now he’s on his way to establishing his own home-based cake business.

    Nick’s drive, commitment and leadership was reflected in winning the Culinary and Tourism Excellence Award, and being named finalist for Student of the Year at The Gordon. From gifted amateur baker, Nick gained the confidence to innovate new approaches to his favourite recipes.

    Pinar Teker

    A difficult path led to Pinar studying a Diploma of Community Services at Bendigo TAFE. After migrating from Turkey, Pinar became a sole parent due to domestic violence. Despite having several degrees and decades of experience, she could not get a job without a referee.

    An acquaintance recommended she enrol in Certificate III in School-Based Education Support at Bendigo TAFE. This transformed her situation and she eventually enrolled in the Diploma of Community Services to fulfill her goal of helping people experiencing sexual and emotional abuse. Pinar is on track to pursue further education in trauma-informed care and psychology.

  • Joachim Lopez-Valoa

    Joachim is avidly interested in the mechanics of things and figuring out how they work by taking them apart. His other great love is water activities. He’s combined these 2 passions and is studying a Certificate III for Marine Mechanics at Kangan Institute. He chose a school-based apprenticeship to get a head-start by graduating secondary school with 2 years of experience.

    Joachim demonstrates enthusiasm and initiative at work every day. He examines the list of daily tasks and doesn’t wait for instruction from his boss to get started. Once qualified, Joachim is keen to keep working as a marine mechanic.

    Chloe Zouch-Ristic

    Chloe’s completing the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care with Cire Training while working at an early learning centre, and undertaking Year 12. She loves working with children and thrives in an environment where she’s learning the skills to provide a quality education for children.

    Chloe uses her initiative to provide the best service she can. Being well organised makes her a valuable team member so when staff are busy, knowing the children's routines she makes up bottles or changes nappies. For Chloe, being able to achieve this qualification whilst at school completing the senior secondary certificate has been a fantastic experience.

    Thalia Spokes

    A believer in leading by example, Thalia role models for her community, and encourages other Year 11 and 12 students to consider entering the Victoria Police school-based program that has so enriched her life. Designed for Aboriginal students, it has been a rewarding and enlightening experience for Thalia.

    Coming from an Aboriginal background, Thalia initially found working with the police daunting. Now she sees how it creates better relationships between the Aboriginal community and police. Thalia’s studies have rewarded her with greater confidence. Currently, she’s taking a Certificate III in Business qualification with training provider Skillinvest and aims to become a police officer.

  • Jenaya Bartlett

    As a Year 10 student, Jenaya was interested in pursuing a career in business. She was attracted to the opportunity of working for Victoria Police because of its strong commitment to inclusion in recruitment, including First Nations peoples.

    Undertaking a school-based traineeship, Jenaya enrolled in Certificate III in Business with SkillInvest. At work, she inspired colleagues to learn about indigenous culture. With determination, Jenaya balanced work and study with activities including being a democracy ambassador to educate her community about the importance of voting. On completing secondary school, Jenaya aims to become a protective service officer or Koorie engagement support officer.

    Pearl Dunn

    Pearl had a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse and in April 2023, she proudly graduated the Diploma of Nursing from SuniTAFE. Despite being hit with a raft of challenges when her studies began in 2020, her resilience saw her reap the rewards of achievement. Now she has a fulfilling position in aged care.

    Pearl’s nursing training was a great complement during her time as a member of the Mallee District Aboriginal Services Board where she worked for better health outcomes for the Murray River community. On graduating, Pearl became a role model for her community, supporting others to embrace nursing careers.

    Kurin Lelean

    Kurin is a queer, transgender Murrinh-Patha man and a passionate advocate for young people’s wellbeing, and social justice. He specifically wants to support the needs of intersectional communities and create inclusive spaces for young people who feel disenfranchised or confused about heritage, gender and sexuality.

    His challenging experiences as a child engaging with youth services and foster care homes, set his path to youth work. He chose Certificate IV in Youth Work at Holmesglen TAFE and aims to share his experience with other First Nations people who are fearful of identifying with their heritage or gender for fear of stigmatisation within and outside their communities.

  • Justin Bisson

    A passion to see his students succeed led VET teacher Justin Bisson to innovate a new course delivery method. In 2022 he transformed his courses at Federation TAFE, Certificate IV in Engineering Drafting, and Diploma of Engineering – Technical, from traditional on-campus courses to self-paced, online delivery, with minimal classroom time.

    Previously, the course was highly structured and teacher-led. Justin saw that its inflexibility didn’t address the barriers to learning and wasn’t responsive to the changing needs of students and employers. Changing from paper-based to online required him to re-design materials and assessment. Self-paced learning is already making positive changes to students’ learning experience.

    Jill Ford

    Jill got her teeth into dental assistance 30 years ago and fell in love with the industry. As a Dental Assisting teacher at Chisholm Institute, she delivers the Certificate III in Dental Assisting. Under her leadership, and sole management, numbers have grown from 4 trainees in 2015 to more than 120 annually and a successful 92% course completion rate.

    To engage the diverse cohort, Jill developed learning methodologies to suit the individual learning styles, including online interactive training. After identifying a significant need for training in regional Victoria she switched delivery to Zoom, marketed the course statewide, and achieved a 10% increase in enrolments annually.

    Thomas Patterson

    After 15 years of working in the construction industry as a carpenter and licenced builder, Thomas leapt into VET teaching to share his knowledge and skills. Teaching at Outer Northern Trade Training Centre, he delivers the Certificate II in Building and Construction Pre-apprenticeship (Carpentry) and the Certificate I Construction Pathways.

    To prepare students more thoroughly for the workforce, Thomas implemented real-world tasks. Small-scale models were replaced with house-sized wall frames, roof structures and sub-floors, which rapidly escalated their skills. Thomas collaborated with plumbing and electrical trade colleagues to apply the same approach into their trades, resulting in a rapid improvement in student output.

  • Beaufort and Skipton Health Service

    Beaufort and Skipton Heath Service (BSHS) is a small rural health service (hospital) that has acute care, aged care facilities and community services. It caters to a population of 6,000 people across 2 campuses and includes a medical practice and allied health services.

    Being a small organisation, each employee is treated as an individual, with individual aspirations. BSHS provides learning opportunities for nursing, cleaning, catering, maintenance, community and administration staff who are empowered to explore new study and career pathways. This includes qualifications in everything from cookery to health services administration and nursing. Investing in professional development ensures a well-rounded program with happy staff.

    Smart Business Solutions

    Smart Business Solutions is an accounting and financial planning firm that offers clients comprehensive services to help them grow their businesses and personal wealth. They’re committed to nurturing the potential of each team member through providing nationally recognised training,

    Their training philosophy is centred around continuous learning, which includes weekly broad or department-specific technical training sessions, and courses and qualifications from Certificate III level to masters degrees in areas including business administration and mortgage broking. Currently 59% of employees are enrolled in external qualifications. Smart Business Solutions training impacts productivity and performance, resulting in improved business efficiencies, business growth and high employee retention.

  • G8 Education Ltd

    G8 Education Ltd is one of Australia’s largest early learning and care providers, with a range of trusted brands and more than 430 centres across the country united by its purpose of creating the foundations for learning for life.

    G8’s Study Pathways program is the provider’s key talent pipeline strategy. By partnering with leading RTO’s and universities, the group offers their team the opportunity to obtain qualifications from Certificate III to masters, through a comprehensive support structure.

    G8 Education supports career development for under-represented groups, and the scale of the business allows the provision of a market-leading employment offer.

    Jayco Australia

    Jayco Australia is an iconic brand of recreational vehicles and a family business that employs more than 1,100 employees, around 40% of who are actively engaged in training each year. Their commitment to training contributes to increased productivity, improved product quality and a highly skilled workforce capable of driving industry growth and technological leadership.

    Located on a 50-acre state-of-the art facility, employees spend an average of 15 hours per month in training, utilising the Jayco Training Academy or ‘Dojo’, their hub for immersive learning experiences to deliver qualifications and courses in leadership, service and repair, competitive systems and practices, engineering-fabrication, plumbing, and women in leadership programs.

    McDonald's Australia Ltd

    Every McDonald’s Australia Ltd employee is offered the opportunity to feast on career success. As an RTO, they deliver nationally recognised qualifications for everyone from crew members to managers with a minimum of 6 hours a month doing on-and-off floor training.

    As a large employer of Victoria’s youth, they provide every opportunity for success in their first job. Each year, McDonald’s Australia Ltd invests more than $60 million into training and development whereby employees earn a formal qualification while earning their wage. With around 29,700 staff working across 289 restaurants. In Victoria, growth through training sees them succeed wherever their career takes them.

  • Beaufort and Skipton Health Service

    A strong, nurturing culture at Beaufort and Skipton Heath Service (BSHS) encourages staff to embrace career advancement. As a small rural health service that has acute care, aged care facilities and community services, BSHS provides innovative learning opportunities for nursing, cleaning, catering, maintenance, community and administration staff.

    To date, they’ve developed and implemented traineeships for several sectors including Diploma of Nursing, an apprenticeship up-skilling cooks through the Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, and a Diploma of Community Health for community case managers. Food and domestic services assistants are now working as trainee enrolled nurses, and staff who commenced as personal care workers are now registered nurses.

    New Plumbing Solutions

    New Plumbing Solutions (NPS) provides trainees with every opportunity to grow from apprenticeship to leadership. They currently have 32 apprentices undertaking Certificate III in Plumbing, and other trainees completing certificates in business, leadership development and civil construction.

    To bolster the skills learnt at trade school, NPS established a dedicated training area at their head office that fosters apprentice mastery and confidence in their techniques so they can rectify issues that may arise, before practicing on a customer’s property. Through mentorships and leadership, apprentices are exposed to expanded career pathways that NPS can provide due to the diversity of the business.

  • Bass Coast Adult Learning

    For a relatively small adult learning centre based in Wonthaggi, Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL) packs a punch when it comes to student success. In 2022, one student published a photography book and others took out top prizes in local art shows. A horticulture graduate went on to create a fresh produce garden and donated produce to Salvation Army food boxes, and several certificated horticulture graduates established businesses.

    BCAL partners with community organisations and local businesses in the development and delivery of diverse courses, sharing knowledge and resources. This includes their Adult Migrant English program with participants from Afghanistan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China and Africa.

    Mountain District Learning Centre

    As well as providing a raft of community education and skill development programs for people of all ages, Mountain District Learning Centre established The Cottage Program for 14 to 18-year olds as an alternative for young people who find mainstream school environments challenging or overwhelming. It focuses on building language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills and has support systems for those who experience acute social anxiety and other related mental health issues. It achieved a 95% success rate. Out of 80 students enrolled over the past 3 years, 74 achieved a Year 10 alternative pass, 8 went on to employment and 66 continued into further study.


    Education is a critical factor in closing the gap for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria. The peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) in response to this issue, sought to deliver these community groups high-quality, culturally safe health and social services to educational programs and outcomes in health and wellbeing.

    By providing wraparound services, advocacy and support throughout and beyond their training, VACCHO has expanded services to support students in achieving their goals; as a result the learner completion rates grew from 10% to 43% in over 12 months.

  • Melbourne Polytechnic

    Melbourne Polytechnic’s commitment to supporting people living with disability is a core value. They’re the only TAFE provider delivering Auslan qualifications in Victoria and the second largest employer of deaf people. In 2022 they launched their All Abilities Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy to ensure accessible and inclusive education for students living with disability. Their Work Education Centre delivers tailored programs specifically designed for learners with disabilities and complex needs, and provides job specific skills. Full wraparound supports contribute to completion rates being comparable to other cohorts, and their focus on inclusivity has resulted in outstanding achievements and student wellbeing.

    National Food Institute

    National Food Institute (NFI) is a nationally Registered Training Organisation delivering workplace-based courses to adults and school-based trainees, in the industries of food manufacturing, logistics, and horticulture. NFI are committed to providing comprehensive services that empower individuals with special needs, particularly students with intellectual, emotional, and learning disabilities. Through strategic partnerships with like-minded employers, NFI deliver contextualised learning experiences to small groups in a flexible and innovative manner. Our dedicated trainers prioritise individual growth, nurturing students to unlock their potential, build confidence, and achieve success in their aspirations and employment. With our tailored approach, NFI foster self-esteem and empower trainees to flourish.

    catalyst training & disability services

    The vision of catalyst training & disability services is a world where expectations and opportunities are the same for people with disabilities. They deliver courses in foundation skills and transition and work education.

    Professional trainers take the time to get to know the students who are provided a wide range of learning opportunities in small classes to facilitate individual support. Visual information is provided for those unable to read. Group activities, such as simulated workplace role plays for work education, not only gives students knowledge and skills, it fosters teamwork and communication. Every effort is made to achieve success.

  • Australian Institute of Engineering

    The Australian Institute of Engineering (AIE) offers specialised engineering training and assessment services. They fill training niches in industries that lack educational opportunities. In conjunction with national and state bodies, they ensure that training programs align with specific business and industry needs.

    AIE's state-of-the-art training facility in Melbourne offers courses from Certificate II to the Graduate Diploma of Engineering. Innovative approaches are adopted to ensure training is accessible, regardless of location or personal circumstances. Students with disabilities are provided assistive technology and accessible learning materials, and e-learning allows access to course materials and interactive lessons from anywhere in the world.

    ALACC Health College Australia

    Despite the pandemic, ALACC Health College, Australia experienced a significant increase in student enrolments. It continued to graduate aged care, nursing, health, disability, pathology, childhood education and community services staff to meet stretched community needs.

    The college set high standards by building a state-of-the-art simulation lab with equipment that mirrors healthcare facilities. Despite being a small training organisation, ALACC Health College has been a popular choice for students. Their satisfaction rate is 90% due to its student-centred, flexible approach to learning. ALACC Health College students have a reputation for being well-prepared to meet the needs of vulnerable Australians in a wide range of care settings.

    Elly Lukas Beauty Therapy College

    Students undertaking specialist training for the beauty, spa and dermal therapy industry with Elly Lukas Beauty Therapy College, train with heady industry partners such as Hayman Spa and Spa qualia, Hamilton Island. Whilst training is delivered locally, students gain the skill to become industry leaders on the global stage via the college’s internationally recognised qualifications; many graduates enjoy careers in exotic resort locations such as the Maldives and Paris. However, closer to home, they enter successful careers as beauty spa therapists, salon managers or business owners. Elly Lukas consistently exceeds employer expectations in a demanding industry and their course completion rate has almost doubled that of the state average.

  • Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute

    Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute have significant footprints across regional and metropolitan Victoria. Bendigo TAFE has a history dating back to the Gold Rush with leading-edge facilities in regional Victoria, while Kangan Institute has been providing vocational education and training for almost 100 years across Melbourne.

    Students are at the centre of the educational journey with the skills and training on offer leading to employment opportunities.

    Approximately 170 courses are offered including automotive, trades, IT, beauty, health, hospitality, and indigenous education and foundation courses. In 2022 the TAFE launched the Certificate IV in Cyber Security utilising physical and virtual technology and in 2023 began a female-only construction starter program alongside social enterprise Sheforce.

    With strong industry partnerships and government support, Bendigo Kangan Institute plays an instrumental role in ensuring Victorians have access to world-class skills for a prosperous economy.

    South West TAFE

    South West TAFE’s outstanding progress has contributed to a skilled and vibrant workforce in their region. They’re the largest VET provider in the south west, with 6 campuses servicing 125,000 people. In 2022, they trained nearly 7,000 outer-regional enrolments resulting in around 5,909 jobs, and 993 students utilising Skills First skill sets to respond to regional skills shortages.

    Through new training models and updated facilities and equipment, enrolments are building in aged and disabled carers, registered nurses, welfare support workers, and early childhood development workers. Devoted to sustainability and innovation, South West TAFE supports the government's clean economy initiatives, including hydrogen for transportation and electric vehicle infrastructure.

    TAFE Gippsland

    TAFE Gippsland’s journey of transformation over the past 6 years, has been nothing short of remarkable. Underpinned by extensive engagement with community and industry and a commitment to delivering the best possible VET outcomes for the region, TAFE Gippsland is today recognised as a leading regional VET provider in Victoria. TAFE Gippsland has a continued focus on developing its people, investing in infrastructure, improving educational quality and enhancing the overall student experience.

    Strategic partnerships assist TAFE Gippsland in addressing skills shortages and meeting regional demands. Across its 13 campuses from Warragul to Lakes Entrance, they offer diverse programs from food and fibre, new and emerging industries through to maritime operations. Design and delivery of waste-to-energy management training was developed in consultation with world-renowned experts and equips students for developing industries. They also play a vital role in supporting transitioning workers gain the skills they need to thrive in new employment.

  • VACCA's Deadly Diploma

    Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology, developed a culturally customised vocational qualification – the Diploma of Community Services. The course covers statutory and forensic child and family welfare, and equips their workforce with case management skills to support Aboriginal children and families.

    VACCA, the lead organisation, has protected and promoted the rights of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for over 45 years with a range of services. The program is delivered flexibly, and incorporates work based scenarios, cultural safety principles, and trauma-informed practice. Since commencement in 2018, over 120 VACCA staff completed the program.

    Victorian Automotive VETiS e-collaboration

    The Victorian Automotive Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) collaboration was established to increase school students completing automotive studies in high school, and better prepare them to enter apprenticeships. The collaborators – Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC), South West TAFE, Healesville Secondary College, and Lyndhurst Secondary College, focus on upgrading and standardising course material for Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation, delivered in Years 11 and 12.

    Previously, each high school had differing teaching resources resulting in skills below what is expected of someone with a pre-vocational qualification. Now the qualification meets automotive industry expectations, enrolments have increased, and local businesses employ VETiS graduates with greater confidence.

    The Women in Apprenticeships Victoria Electrical Project

    Attracting women to electrical trades was the goal of the collaboration project, The Women in Apprenticeships Victoria Electrical (WAVE). The collaboration involves the Victorian Electrical Trades Union, Holmesglen Institute, Trades Hall Council, Australian Women in Solar Energy, and the Victorian Department of Education. A holistic approach was taken from engagement to placement, supported by strategies to attract, recruit, train and retain women in electrical apprenticeships.

    The program was a resounding success. Around 33 participants commenced a women-only pre-apprenticeship course, more than 100 women got involved in Try a Trade Days – Women in Trades and 94% completed the pre-apprenticeship program. Many are employed as apprentices in various companies.

Reviewed 21 July 2023

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