Apprentice of the Year
Certificate III in Plumbing, South West TAFE
Having grown up on a farm in Mortlake in Victoria's west, Shona knew she wanted a career that required practical skills where she could work outdoors. During her senior years at secondary school, she was exposed to plumbing as a career at the South West TAFE Taster Day. Against advice from some school staff members who insisted that plumbing was not a career for women, she enrolled in the VET in Schools plumbing program, and she loved it.
Happiness equates to success for Shona, but she has won several awards including South West TAFE's Apprentice of the Year (2019) and then overall Apprentice of the Year at South West TAFE (2020). She hopes that her success will inspire others to follow their dreams, even if like hers, they are unconventional.
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician at NECA Education and Careers
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, Bendigo TAFE
Trainee of the Year
Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing, Box Hill Institute
Animal lover Nicole Barrow knew from a young age that she would work in a profession that involved animals. During her schooling, she worked at a thoroughbred stud on weekends, and after completing year 12 at the end of 2016, she got a job at a Warmblood breeding facility which helped her become surer of her career path. It soon became clear that because of her fascination with animal anatomy and physiology, she should become a veterinary nurse.
Nicole signed up for a traineeship at Rose City Veterinary Hospital in Benalla and began her course at the start of 2017. She was very engaged in learning the skills and knowledge provided by the medical and surgical nursing unit at the clinic. The further Nicole progressed in her training and education, the more she fell in love with her vocation. Her dedication to her studies saw her qualify in January 2020, and awarded the title, 'Student of the Year' at Box Hill Institute.
Certificate IV in Community Services, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Certificate IV in Business, Chisholm Institute
Vocational Student of the Year
Diploma of Community Services, Wodonga Institute of TAFE
Renowned bicycle mechanic and rider Simon Watts had been providing a community service since 2010 when he established the not-for-profit Border Community Cycleworks. He supplied free bicycles to people in need for transport, rehabilitation and exercise, as well as conducting bike education programs in schools. After a hiatus in studying for more than 15 years, he decided to formalise his community service credentials and take his ultimate career ride into Wodonga TAFE to embrace a Community Service Diploma.
Achieving the Community Service Diploma has been a life-changing experience for Simon and he's an avid ambassador for training and lifelong learning as he glimpses into the worlds of those who have had extraordinary experiences including refugees fleeing conflict and the homeless. He was nicknamed the 'high achiever' and awarded Student of the Year by Wodonga TAFE. His own training accomplishment makes him a powerful role model for those who are unsure of their path.
Certificate IV in Leisure and Health, genU Training
Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising, Kangan Institute
School-based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year
Van Sui Thawng
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, Box Hill Institute
Van Sui Thawng faced terrible adversity in war-torn Myanmar. He and his family fled the country in 2009 and took a long journey to Australia, with time spent in a Malaysian refugee camp. Eventually they arrived in Melbourne and settled in Mooroolbark. Despite all of this, Van views challenges as a normal part of life and an opportunity to grow.
After attending an information evening at Yarra Hills Secondary College, Van decided to complete VCE and take on electrical trade training. It was a good choice given there was a skills shortage. The Head Start program was the perfect option to combine his ambitions to finish secondary school and become an electrician through the school-based apprenticeship.
To create further understanding and remove cultural barriers, Van teaches people at work about his background. This has created a sense of comfort to the point where he enjoys the workplace mateship. As a role model for other young Hakha Chin people Van leads by example and has become a voice to be heard in his community. He demonstrates that regardless of where they have come from, their cultural or language barriers, or experiences of adversity, if you have passion and a dream you can change your life and achieve your vision.
Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, MEGT Australia & GOTAFE
Certicate III in Carpentry, Swinburne University of Technology and JS Lowther Builders
Koorie Student of the Year
Certificate IV in Community Services, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association (VACSAL)
Helping people heal from the effects of transgenerational trauma is a key goal of Matthew Atkinson, a proud Bangerang man who laid a path from his career as a carpenter into the justice department where he could provide direct support and services to the Aboriginal community.
Matthew's natural leadership ability has been honoured twice. After being nominated by peers, trainers and assessors, he won VACSAL's Student Leadership award in 2019. In 2017 he won his regions Fairely Leadership Award, which recognised promising leaders from a range of experiences. He's also completed a Certificate IV in Leadership and Management to strengthen his knowledge and ability to convey his important messages.
Now Matthew is enjoying his role as Koorie Case Manager with Shepparton Magistrates Court as well as being Chair of the Shepparton Local Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. He's passionate about supporting his community to break the cycle of poverty, transgenerational trauma.
Certificate III in Business, Ai Group Apprentice and Trainee Centre
Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, SuniTAFE, Mildura
Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award
Born and raised in the Bairnsdale area, Kevin Nunn spent a lot of his time growing up exploring the forest adjacent to the family farm in East Gippsland. Back then, there were no TAFE tree felling courses and people were expected to learn on the job. He remembers being filled with anxiety and adrenaline when he felled his first big Ash tree but when the dust settled, he turned to his teacher who just smiled and nodded his head. This experience nearly 40 years ago, guides how he trains his students today. With that same gesture, he tells his students that they've done a good job.
Kevin's the go-to person when it comes to adapting training to keep it engaging and applicable to real world scenarios. For example, the timber industry is significantly more automated than it was 15 years ago, with people and machinery working closely. Kevin has had the pleasure of teaching thousands of students about the industry that he loves, and he recognises each of their unique backgrounds and learning styles. His crucial work has helped make TAFE Gippsland a leading provider for forestry management and timber training.
Bendigo Kangan Institute