The training awards experience—from the regional and state training program, on to the nationals—continually inspires participants, motivating them to work hard and commit to their vocational education and training (VET) pathway.

Some of our past winners highlight their experiences below. You can also watch videos where our finalists talk about why nominating it's important—not only for their career or organisation, but also for the industry that they contribute to.

Ellie Farrington

2019 Apprentice of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian runner-up

"I'm very passionate about training and what it has done for me and all that it has to offer. Winning Apprentice of the Year was incredibly unexpected. It's reassurance that I'm on the right path and I'm very, very honoured." – Ellie Farrington.

With a passion for the built environment, Ellie started out studying architecture at university. Feeling that she was learning about design without any knowledge of construction, Ellie decided to change that. After switching to and completing a Bachelor of Mathematics, she sought out a carpentry apprenticeship and hasn't looked back. Ellie's ultimate goal is to provide her clients with a seamless process from initial design to final building handover.

Breanna Cassidy

2020 Trainee of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"Competing in the Queensland Training Awards and being named the Australian and Queensland Trainee of the Year was the most incredible experience. I am inspired to do and be more, and encourage others to back themselves and enter the awards. You just never know where it will take you." – Breanna Cassidy.

Breanna Cassidy's story highlights how earn-and-learn opportunities like traineeships can seriously kick-start your career and open doors you never even knew existed. Without a high school certificate, Breanna was determined to complete a nationally recognised Certificate III in Business. Her passion and commitment earned her high praise and entry into the Queensland Training Awards, where she went on to win state and national awards. Flying high on success, Breanna continued her passion for design, starting an apprenticeship in graphic pre-press.

Aman Meles

2019 Trainee of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist
2019 Equity VET Student of the Year – Queensland winner (award not offered nationally)

"I am honoured to win this award, it shows that VET works and is achieving outcomes. I got excluded from a couple of different high schools because I wasn't getting that one-on-one support that I needed, and I got transferred to a VET education program. That is where I found myself and I found my passion, and it just developed me as a person, so my winning a Queensland Training Award just shows that VET works and it's the future for our young people." – Aman Meles.

Aman's goal is to become a youth worker, a career path he believes will allow him to support young people in his community before they become disengaged. Aman is determined to make the most of every opportunity available to him to achieve his goal. He successfully completed his Certificate III in Community Services in 2018 and is working towards a Diploma of Youth Work.

Ben Nedwich

2016 Trainee of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"The Queensland Training Awards make you understand what you're capable of and what you've already done. It makes you proud of your life and your achievements, but it also makes you recognise the importance of the people who've helped you get there." – Ben Nedwich.

Through completing his traineeship with Bundaberg Regional Council, Ben Nedwich has reinforced his existing knowledge with an accredited qualification that will enhance his career prospects. In recognition of his commitment to his studies, Ben received Sunrise Rotary's TAFE Queensland East Coast Trainee/Apprentice of the Year and Overall Student of the Year awards in 2015 and a full sponsorship to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp.

Ngaire Trigg

2020 Vocational Student of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"From the regional awards through to state and now nationals, the Queensland Training Awards provide a truly unique opportunity to celebrate personal success. My Diploma enabled me to take my passion for nature to a whole new level and into my community in new and exciting ways. My training set me up for the meaningful career I yearned for. As for my award, I'm truly humbled but am also delighted to be recognised for doing what I love and for being able to share my story to inspire others to do the same." – Ngaire Trigg.

Mother-of-two Ngaire switched her life's focus to tap into her passions for networking and supporting the natural environment. Thanks to studying a Diploma of Community Development, Ngaire now found her dream job working as an Environmental Support Officer as part of a pilot program at St Benedict's Catholic School in Townsville. Ngaire collaborated with teachers, other school staff and community leaders to develop activities to build students' understanding of the outdoors, such as creating a native plant and bush tucker trail with support from local Aboriginal Elders.

Odin Lowsley

2018 Vocational Student of the Year – Queensland winner and Australia runner-up

"Go for it, don't even hesitate! Winning a Queensland Training Award has been such an enjoyable experience. I've gotten to meet so many great people, every part has just been fantastic. It's been such a wild and enjoyable experience and I don't see what you have to lose by applying. If you've got the passion, go for it!" – Odin Lowsley.

After completing a Certificate III in Multimedia in Year 10, Odin Lowsley went on to study a full-time Diploma of Graphic Design at TAFE Queensland. rather than continue to Year 11. Odin graduated top of his class, with work experience and awards under his belt. Using his VET qualification as a stepping stone, he was accepted to study a dual degree at Griffith University at just 16. On 25 November 2019, Odin was announced as a 2020 New Columbo Plan scholar by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will go to study in Taiwan.

Rachael Turner

2017 Vocational Student of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"I would definitely encourage other people to apply for these awards. You may not feel so confident in yourself, but you never really know what you are capable of—so go for it. Hard work pays off and my experience with the awards has been so much fun!" – Rachael Turner.

Rachael trained as a classical pianist and operated a music school for 10 years before realising her true passion for construction. After completing a Certificate IV in Building and Construction, Rachael is now a licensed builder and member of Master Builders Queensland and the National Association of Women in Construction. Rachael has gone on to win multiple awards, including the 2019 ADCO Construction Award for Achievement as a Businesswoman and the 2018 Master Builders' Queensland Women in Building award.

Rachel Dudok

2014 Vocational Student of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner
2012 Apprentice of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist 

"The Queensland Training Awards is a wonderful avenue to celebrate your achievements, but also your training pathway, training provider, employer and industry. It is also a great opportunity to network and acknowledge what others are doing in the vocational education sector." – Rachel Dudok.

With an aptitude for subjects such as mathematics and technology, Rachel decided to pursue an engineering degree. During one of her work placements, she realised that she preferred the hands-on experience and decided to undertake an apprenticeship through Aviation Australia instead. Rachel completed a Diploma in Aeroskills (Avionics) and became a Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. In her current role as Program Manager – Electrical Apprenticeships at Energy Skills Queensland, Rachel is passionate about promoting excellence in VET on a global scale.

Jabin Giblett

2020 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"My apprenticeship changed my life. Through the Queensland Training Awards, I have been able to celebrate just how far I have come and to share my story to help others in ways I could only dream of. I was on a bad path, but was able to find passion and purpose thanks to The Hairport Yamanto and the apprenticeship and support  they provided me. I dedicate my training awards to them. I also encourage others to enter the awards to recognise their achievements and supporters, and to inspire others who connect with their story." - Jabin Giblett.

From troubled youth to successful head barber, Jabin Giblett turned his life around through perseverance, an apprenticeship and an employer willing to give him a go. A proud Aboriginal South Sea Islander, Jabin is committed to his profession and community, and sharing his personal story to promote positive change and mental health support for at-risk youth and men.

Kieran Chilcott

2015 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"As a full-time employee, husband, father and contributor to my community, it was an honour and privilege winning a Queensland Training Award—it has raised my profile within the sector I work in and has demonstrated to my community that hard work and perserverance is rewarding. Since winning the award, I have been able to promote the importance of education and training to Aboriginal and Torres Strait young people across the country." – Kieran Chilcott.

Kieran is the Executive Officer of Gold Coast-based Kalwun Development Corporation, which employed 135 staff in 2015. A lifelong learner, Kieran enrolled in his Certificate IV in Mental Health to better support his employees and to build a greater empathy for those with mental health issues.

Sharan Berry

2015 VET Teacher or Trainer of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian runner-up

"The Queensland Training Awards will give you the opportunity to work with and alongside likeminded individuals and companies who all share inspirational achievements and who have an immense passion and admiration for the VET sector. I would say grab the opportunity with both hands and run with it." – Sharan Berry.

For 20 years, Sharan Berry has been at the leading edge of hairdressing training at TAFE Queensland. Since winning her award in 2015, Sharan has gone on to become an Australian Apprenticeship Ambassador and is the current face of training and skills for the Federal Government. Sharan is also heavily involved in WorldSkills activities and training students for industry competitions.

TAFE Queensland

2015–2018 Large Training Provider of the Year – Queensland winner
2018–2019 International Training Provider of the Year – Australian finalist/winner

"The Queensland Training Awards are such a great time to pause, reflect, appreciate the effort, the energy, the tears or the effort that our students put into achieving their awards, and also our educators, our teachers, and our staff and how they facilitate students achieving.

"I think the power of knowledge and the power of education can really change people's lives. And I think that's what these awards really recognise and it is a time to reflect as an industry on the impact we have." – Annabel Dolphin, TAFE Queensland Board Chairperson.

TAFE Queensland is the state's largest further education and training provider, delivering practical, industry-relevant courses to more than 120,000 students each year. TAFE Queensland offers students more than 490 qualifications, from foundational skills and entry-level programs to higher education degrees. It provides individuals with training options for every stage of their career, while giving employers skilling solutions that are responsive to workforce needs.

Institute of Culinary Excellence

2018–2019 Small Training Provider of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner/finalist

"Winning an award and being recognised for doing what we do really well has given me a feeling of endorsement, so I can go out there and reach for the stars a bit more. We've gone into the international market which we probably wouldn't have done before.

"I think the key thing for anyone wanting to enter this award is that the Queensland Training Awards led us to the national awards, and that gave us recognition overseas—suddenly we're not just this little cooking school in Brisbane anymore, we're on an international level." – Alison Taafe, Director and Training Manager.

The Institute of Culinary Excellence (ICE) is an award-winning Queensland culinary school that prides itself on a personalised and unique approach to training. Driven by a passion to provide the best possible learning experience for all its students, and to produce the very best apprentice chefs, ICE has experienced significant growth since opening in 2014, and continues to be a trainer of choice for Brisbane's culinary elite.

St Columban's College

2017 Small Training Provider of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"I have found the training awards an absolute support mechanism to make things happen and to help initiate change. Because the awards benchmark best practice, as a Principal I can say, 'here is a set of criteria set externally to the school that is looking at quality outcomes and innovative outcomes'. 

"As a Principal you are looking at evidence-based practice to inform your vision and the vision of the community, and so by looking at the various award criteria, we can say 'if we are doing this, and we have the evidence behind it, we know we are on the right track'." – Ann Rebgetz, Principal (2017).

St Columban's College is dedicated to ensuring excellence in training, equity in access and participation, and a strategic edge for students entering the 21st century workforce. Modern training facilities and industry and business partnerships ensure students receive relevant and quality training. In addition to supporting students to gain recognised qualifications, the RTO also focuses on helping students develop essential literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.

Pullman Cairns International

2018 Large Employer of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"In our business, winning a Queensland Training Award is recognition from industry that we are on the right track, starting to address some of the chef shortage issues we have in our industry. Definitely nominate, it's a great process. We got tons of support from the department. Use the resources that are there because they really are there to help." – Bernadette Reynolds, Talent and Culture Manager.

As an AccorHotels property, Pullman Cairns International has access to the AccorHotels Academie, an RTO that develops and implements training initiatives across Australia. The Academie's online platform means that courses are available to all team members, regardless of their position. In addition to the Academie, Pullman Cairns International is committed to supporting apprenticeships in commercial cookery, with a targeted strategy to combat the chef shortage.

Darwalla Group

2017 Medium Employer of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"Winning our award in 2018 reinforced our confidence that what we were doing is on the right path and it also reinforced the idea of improving every time and looking at new ideas, new things to be done. It gave a lot of confidence to our people that our programs are among the best and that we are a great company - our reputation has been boosted a lot." – Juan Correodor, QA and HR Manager.

With a firm belief that employees are its most valuable asset, poultry producer Darwalla Group assists employees in reaching their full potential through education. All staff members undergo training, including non-accredited internal programs and accredited courses in poultry production. leadership and management. Upskilling existing workers has prepared these individuals for their current and future roles with the business and improved safety for everyone involved.

Kent Saddlery

2020 Small Employer of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"The Queensland Training Awards experience is something our entire team will treasure for a lifetime. We were so honoured to go on to be recognised nationally for our contribution to training, especially our part in the reinstatement of the Certificate III in Leather Production apprenticeship in Queensland.

"The nomination process helped us reflect on what we do and why we do it, and to recognise the many people who help us succeed. Our success is testament to the commitment of our staff and our training provider Tactile Learning Centre, as well as our loyal customers who support Australian manufacturing.

"I encourage all businesses who value their people to enter the training awards. It's a great way to recognise and reward them for their commitment and support." – Josh Furness, Production Manager.

Read more from Kent Saddlery on Facebook.

Kent Saddlery from Stanthorpe showed how you go from a 'one-man-show' to a show-stopping employer of choice and advocate for training, being named the 2020 Australian and Queensland Small Employer of the Year at respective training awards. Kent Saddlery helped reinstate leather production as an apprenticeship in Queensland in 2019, allowing it and other saddlers to employ apprentices.

Kennedy's Timbers

2019 Small Employer of the Year – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"Winning at the state awards, along with being a finalist for nationals, has invigorated the team to appreciate that what they are doing is recognised as being of a high standard. Not winning at nationals means there are other small businesses doing it better which is fantastic for their employees and also an acknowledgement that whilst we are doing many things very well, we can continue to improve. In lots of ways not winning at the Australian Training Awards will have greater long-term beneficial outcomes than winning." – Michael Kennedy, CEO and Founder.

Kennedy's Timbers' first employee completed a Certificate III in Forest and Forest Products Timber Merchandising in 1998. Since then, more than 20 individuals have successfully completed apprenticeships, VET qualifications and university studies while employed and supported by Kennedy's. The business has a dedicated training strategy that includes a commitment to provide a minimum of 1.5 per cent of annual turnover to employee training.

Spencer Constructions

2018 Small Employer of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"We won the Queensland award in 2018, and then went on and won the national title as well, which was wonderful. All our staff are very proud.

"Winning the award meant a lot to us, a lot to our staff. What it did was help boost our public integrity and profile quite significantly, and in particular, we found that with suppliers and potential clients and people seeking employment—so we became an employer of choice." – Stuart Spencer, Operations Manager.

Spencer Constructions is a growing construction business based on the northside of Brisbane. Founded in 2012, it has grown from a one-person, home-based business to an office/warehouse-based enterprise that currently employs 23 staff, including seven apprentices. It credits its incredibly low staff turnover rate to a strategic staff development and succession plan, with 80 per cent of its tradespeople currently undertaking nationally accredited training.

Tradesmen on Time

2017 Small Employer of the Year – Queensland and Australian winner

"The process of putting in a nomination was some of the best analysis that we have done into HOW and WHY we do the things we do in our business, which I believe has led to better reporting and tracking in other areas of our business. I'd recommend nominating to anyone - you don't get too many opportunities to take a deep dive when running a small business.

"Being a winner of the Queensland Training Awards in the Small Employer category has given us increased credibility in the marketplace. With economic conditions, we haven't been able to grow as much as we would've liked. However winning the award has helped us stay in business and our reputation is second to none in the field." – Chris Lehmann, Head Electrician and Director.

Electrical contractor business Tradesmen on Time trains all staff to the highest standard of customer service. Employees also receive ongoing relevant training for their trade or administration role. The business trains apprentices and regularly hosts work experience students. This training focus has directly contributed to Tradesmen on Time's excellent reputation and resulted in competent, highly skilled tradespeople, safe working environments and increased personal development and satisfaction.

EQIP Gladstone

2019 Industry Collaboration Award – Queensland winner and Australian finalist

"Winning a Queensland Training Award is fantastic. I think what we've been able to do, having industry work so closely with our schools through an organisation like EQIP, is second to none. There's nothing like it. I'd love to see other people learn from our example and start creating a similar partnership in other towns throughout Australia." – Nicole Allison, Operations Manager.

EQIP Gladstone was created to facilitate collaboration between local schools, community organisations, and business and industry in order to provide students with alternative education opportunities and career pathways. Their goal is to support the economic growth of the Gladstone region by developing the next generation workforce. EQIP's specialised learning facilities and training programs provide students with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to gain employment.

Last updated 11 December 2020

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