2020 VTA Winners and Finalists

​Congratulations to all of this year’s Victorian Training Award winners and finalists.

Thank you to everyone who nominated, the judges who participated in the shortlisting process and the sponsors who have committed to supporting the 2020 Victorian Training Awards.

Individual Categories

Apprentice of the Year


Shona McGuigan

Shona McGuigan
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.

Nellie Baker
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician at NECA Education and Careers

It took a leap of faith and no small amount of courage for Nellie Baker to discover her dream career after she started her third qualification. Her first Diploma was in Fashion Design and Technology and although she enjoyed the hands-on components, the design process didn't suit her. The second, a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, satisfied her love of maths and science but it was heavy in report writing. Thankfully she kept searching until she found the electrical field, which ignited her passion.

Nellie has found confidence and satisfaction working as an electrical apprentice as well as her active involvement in the Electrical Trades Union Women's Committee, where she's dedicated to helping and inspiring other young women through sharing her experience. Nellie aspires to one day become an electrical trade schoolteacher to help shape the careers of future apprentices.

Joel Handcock
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, Bendigo TAFE

Joel Handcock began his working life at global food manufacturing company Simplot 13 years ago when he apprenticed as a fitter and turner. As it turned out, that path wasn't the right fit, so he decided to reconnect with his childhood passion for electronics.  Going from being a full-time tradesperson overseeing apprentices to undertaking a new apprenticeship at age 28 had its challenges, including living on an apprentice's wage. Joel became a father during his first year, but he remained determined to be a success on all fronts.

Joel believes that his successful apprenticeship was contingent on being attentive and proactive in taking the initiative to support the tradespeople he worked with. His great work ethic and achievements didn't go unrecognised. In 2019 he was the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) Australia's International Apprentice Scholarship recipient, and in February 2020 he was awarded Apprentice of the Year at Bendigo TAFE. 

Trainee of the Year

Nicole Barrow

Nicole Barrow
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. 

Tamara Eldridge
Certificate IV in Community Services, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Before becoming a persuasive advocate for young people with addiction issues, Tamara Eldridge had to emerge from her own shell. She chose to study community services because of her lived experience within the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) sector. After journeying to recovery, she wanted to help other people see that change was possible.

Her peer support skills were sought out after commencing studies at RMIT. Over the months she built positive trusting relationships with the small group of trainees. Studying the Cert IV in Community Services gave Tamara's life a structure and purpose and in so doing, restored her sense of self-worth. Showing up to work every day and receiving positive feedback about the tasks and assignments she had successfully completed, demonstrated that she was involved in something worthwhile and meaningful, which filled her with pride. 

Nicholas Steer
Certificate IV in Business, Chisholm Institute

There are few workplaces that cater well to the Deaf community, so when Nicholas Steer was offered a traineeship through Expression Australia, a not for profit organisation that provides services to deaf people, he jumped at it. Nicholas brings an enthusiasm for education to his workplace and the training environment and demonstrates that being deaf is no barrier to high achievement.

Nicholas' is also a strong advocate for the Deaf community, where he works to help break down barriers and improve awareness of the challenges of deaf people. He's part of the Deafhood team that advocates for better access for deaf and hard of hearing people, and a Youth Governor for the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament Program where he's invited to speak regularly at events. In 2019 he was honoured to be an Australian delegate at the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section General Assembly in Paris, France.

Vocational Student of the Year


Simon Watts

Simon Watts
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.

Scott Tomlinson
Certificate IV in Leisure and Health, genU Training

Embarking on a new profession supporting lifestyle programs in an aged-care facility was Scott Tomlinson's dream come true. He left careers in customer service and childcare spanning more than two decades and undertook a qualification in leisure and health because he wanted to make a positive difference to the quality of life of older people. To do this, he had to be courageous and tackle his own challenges.

Scott has a strong sense of empathy and finds a way to connect with people regardless of age, culture or state of being. He achieves this by listening to the person and letting them show him the way to connect. With courage and unshakable determination Scott exemplifies the spirit of community service in every avenue of his life. As a strong advocate for life-long learning, Scott's own story inspires others to know that even when living with a disability, perseverance pays off.  

Bethany Peele
Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising, Kangan Institute

Bethany Maree Peele is tailor made for the fashion world and she expressed herself through diverse styles and shopping for unique items. Things got more serious during a visit to Cambodia, where she heard harrowing stories of terrible working conditions in the heart of the clothing manufacturing precinct. This prompted her to launch into a new career in fashion design where she could be part of the conversation to change the fashion industry and provide sustainable, ethical options for consumers.

Strong technical and creative design skills, work ethic and drive saw Bethany complete the Diploma course in 2019 with many awards and accolades. She was awarded Kangan Institute's 2019 Student of the Year and received SpecSavers' 2019 Young Innovator Design Award for creating cutting-edge female eyewear designs. Her designs are currently being manufactured for sale in Australian and New Zealand SpecSavers stores in 2021. 

School-based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year


Van Sui Thawng

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. 

Callum Howden
Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, MEGT Australia & GOTAFE

Knowing academia would not be his path, Callum Howden undertook work experience in several trades during Year 10. He was determined to find the right opportunity to begin his long-term career. While testing the field of industrial refrigeration and air-conditioning he became intrigued by the science of refrigeration. Soon after he commenced his school-based apprenticeship in refrigeration and air-conditioning with S.W Refrigeration. 

On top of the Certificate III in Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, he's also completing a VET Electrotechnology Certificate II at GOTAFE. To balance out his studies, Callum volunteers for several community activities. He looks forward to further developing his skills and knowledge and there's no doubt that with his strong work ethic and self-belief, he will achieve his aim of becoming a renowned tradesman running his own business while training young apprentices. 

Darian Burgess
Certicate III in Carpentry, Swinburne University of Technology and JS Lowther Builders

Darian Burgess has always wanted to be a carpenter. Many of his family members work in construction but Darian is looking forward to becoming the first to qualify in the trade. The building blocks of his passion were formed during childhood where he got firsthand experience helping in his father's handyman business.

Darian's school-based apprenticeship in carpentry began in February 2019 and he's taken to it like a hammer to a nail. It involves working three days per week with JS Lowther Builders and going full-time during school holidays, on top of completing his intermediate and senior VCAL Certificates at school. 

In 2020 Darius was honoured to be appointed Upwey High School Senior VCAL Captain. Through his leadership he highlights the opportunities that come from a vocational educational program. Darian lives his belief that if you dream big, work hard, and utilise all your training opportunities, then the road to becoming a success in anything will be paved with mahogany.

Koorie Student of the Year


Matthew Atkinson

Matthew Atkinson
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.

Grace Stewart
Certificate III in Business, Ai Group Apprentice and Trainee Centre

Proud Yamatji woman Grace Stewart took a gap year after completing Year 12, which gave her the opportunity to work while she explored her options for further study.  Grace wanted to continue to tertiary studies in business but her VCE marks were not as she'd hoped, and she struggled to envision a bright future.

The gap year led to the discovery of the Youth Employment Scheme Traineeship where she could work and train at the same time through Ai Group Apprentice and Trainee Centre. Having the courage to step out of her comfort zone and into new situations enabled Grace to grow in an organisation where people warmly welcomed her, shared their wealth of learning and encouraged her development opportunities. Grace thrived in a collaborative and innovative environment amongst a diverse range of people. 

Elva Smerotkins
Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, SuniTAFE, Mildura

Grandmother Elva Smerotkins' recipe for a fulfilled and happy life is to bestow kindness and caring on others and feed them delicious, nutritious food. Returning to study commercial cookery gave her the confidence to step up a notch in the kitchen and upgrade her chef qualifications so that she could rise to the level of sous chef in the aged care sector.

The training at SuniTAFE exceeded Elva's expectations and she was impressed that even though classes were full, the trainers still had time to provide one-on-one assistance. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the course was the teamwork and the relationships she developed with the younger generation of learners she practiced with. Mentoring is not a new role for Elva; being a mother to 6 and grandmother to 13 children requires taking a leadership role and she's proud that three generations of her family are currently studying at SuniTAFE. Elva tells them that life is short and it's never too late to learn.  For Elva, spreading the love equates to sharing the food, and she likes to cook for people in need in her community. 

Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award


Kevin Nunn

Kevin Nunn
TAFE Gippsland

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.

Marina McGrath
Bendigo Kangan Institute

Marina McGrath's students are no strangers to having their fabric designs splashed across Australian fashion labels or their clothing appear on runways. By employing every available opportunity, including her vast industry networks, Marina has supported countless budding fashion designers to carve their own futures in the fast-evolving industry.

Her exceptional journey as a VET educator came after a 15-year career as a fashion designer and product developer in Melbourne, Sydney and Berlin. After having a family, she transitioned into teaching VET in 2006. Marina's passionate about leading the students to effect change in the design and manufacturing process across the global fashion chain to reduce the industry's negative environmental impact. She recently exposed them to Melbourne's first sustainable raw material, circular design and ethical manufacturing sourcing event, RAW Assembly, then organised for them to be volunteers at next year's event to lift their profiles in that arena. 

Torin Coakley
Bendigo TAFE

When building and construction trainer Torin Coakley commenced his role nearly four years ago, his Certificate II in Building and Construction students were floundering. They simply couldn't keep track of all the printed pieces of paper with their assignment tasks written on them.

Torin innovated a solution to the course work that changed everything. He developed a resource book that contained all of the students' work in one document. Having one bound volume kept their work in a manageable state. This resource had a huge impact. Such is his dedication to his students he recently undertook the Certificate IV in Building and Construction and the Diploma of Building and Construction to update his own knowledge of the industry and to gain fresh insight into the experience of being a TAFE student. He studied in his own time while continuing fulltime teaching across a range of courses and student groups.

Employer Categories

Medium Employer of the Year


Mambourin Enterprises

Mambourin Enterprises

Mambourin is wholly focused on removing barriers to employment, education and a fulfilling life for people living with a disability, regardless of how challenging those barriers may seem. Their inspiring success stories tell of people who have been deemed unemployable, yet go on to defy the odds and obtain qualifications, get jobs, get married, have children and go on holidays.

Based in the west of Melbourne, Mambourin is a not for profit organisation that's been supporting people aged between 16 and 65 living with intellectual and physical disabilities for almost 50 years. They connect people to opportunities that help them achieve their personal goals. Traditionally, when young people living with a disability leave school their options are limited and they struggle to find employment. This can leave them disengaged and disconnected from their community. Mambourin has well-established partnerships with special schools and mainstream secondary schools across the west of Melbourne.

Large Employer of the Year


Swan Plumbing Supplies

Swan Plumbing Supplies

Swan Plumbing Supplies is a family owned business that's been in operation for 66 years. It grew from a small shop front to 35 branches across Australia employing more than 200 team members. Its client list includes 3,500 plumbers who work in retail and industrial environments. Each week, 50% of Swan team members are engaged in training across every aspect of the business, from the warehouse to the shop floor.

Central to Swan's management pillars is to train and develop employees to the highest standards of excellence. As such, partnership programs with external accredited training providers are blended with Swan in-house training programs across five categories; customer interaction, product knowledge, technological advancement, personal development and leadership and development.

Community links are strong. During the Victorian bushfires, Swan supported staff who were CFA volunteers so they could battle the blazes whilst receiving full pay. They also donated considerable amounts of product to restore services at Kinglake in 2008. Just as important is offering students from local schools work experience opportunities, which can take place in all areas of the business.

Industry Collaboration Award


SuniTAFE Aged Care Leadership Development Collaboration

SuniTAFE Aged Care Leadership Development Collaboration
Sunraysia Institute of TAFE & Chaffey Aged Care

It was a great day for the aged care sector when Sunraysia Institute of TAFE (SuniTAFE) and four aged care providers in the Sunraysia region joined forces in a collaborative partnership to upskill its workforce and set new standards for leadership in aged care.

Princes Court (Mildura), Chaffey Aged Care (Merbein), Jacaranda Village (Red Cliffs) and Murray House (Wentworth) provide aged care services collectively to 325 residents and employ nearly 400 staff. SuniTAFE worked with these four providers to identify common problems across the sector. What emerged was a familiar story across the business - staff were elevated to senior roles as a result of tenure even though they were under-qualified to meet operational and industrial requirements in-line with current standards.

The collaborators co-designed the entire project and developed a training solution that directly addressed leadership issues. The project creates an improved environment for aged residents requiring care within the community. This is of benefit to their wellbeing, families and friends, who are assured of consistency and quality.

Aboriginal Workforce Development Initiative
Swinburne University of Technology and various Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and Registered Training Organisations

Since 2018, the Aboriginal Workforce Development Initiative (AWDI), has addressed the accredited training needs of staff working in family violence and related areas such as child protection. The collaborative project has brought together 21 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and 12 Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) across Victoria with Swinburne University of Technology serving as the primary RTO and project manager.

The project has achieved outstanding results, with a total of 259 participants engaged in accredited training, and at least 133 of those identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This exceeded the target of 150 enrolments. The Aboriginal Workforce Development Initiative has made a significant contribution to Aboriginal services and communities across Victoria by investing in targeted accredited training. As a result, participating RTOs now have greater levels of understanding of the values and needs of ACCOs operating in their communities, which will benefit future program design and implementation.

Federation TAFE & IBM Australia Ltd

The Pathways to Technology, or P-TECH program, is an education model that provides young people aged between 15-24 with the academic, technical, and professional skills and credentials for tech jobs. However, these are not ordinary young people; they've come through challenging life experiences, and in the spirit of creating social equity, P-Tech has given them the opportunity to transform their lives.

Lack of academic achievement is not a barrier to admission to the course as there are no entry threshold standards. The program is facilitated through a collaboration between Federation College, Federation TAFE and global technology giant, IBM. Federation College, which sits within Federation TAFE, is the training provider and multinational technology company IBM is the industry link. They create well defined career pathways that reflect future industry demands.

Underserved, vulnerable youth enter the P-TECH program, and leave it having experienced an innovative education opportunity that directly leads to career readiness and qualifications. They've embraced workplace professionalism, lifelong learning, adaptable thinking and intellectual curiosity.

Training Provider Categories

Community Training Provider of the Year


The Centre for Continuing Education

The Centre for Continuing Education

The Centre for Continuing Education Inc (The Centre), rose like a phoenix from the ashes of complete governance and financial failure. From 2015 it was restored to a thriving not-for-profit training provider employing more than 70 people. As a Learn Local community education college, it largely services those who experience barriers to social and economic participation in the Hume region. 

The programs operate across 11 local government areas and are a unique blend of community capacity building and vocational education. The Centre employs learning in its widest sense to accommodate the multiple social and health problems of their cohorts. Hume has some of the highest rates of mental health, suicide, problematic drug and alcohol use, domestic violence and child protection issues in Victoria.

Program effectiveness is measured through the outcomes and their employment rates are extraordinary, ranging from 95-100% for community services and health programs. Whether they're empowering women to safely take control of their financial affairs, administering family therapy or supporting offenders to understand and manage their learning disorders, the Centre for Continuing Education is constructing the road towards a safer, happier life.

CireServices Inc.

As one of the largest not-for-profits serving the diverse population of the Shire of Yarra Ranges, east of Melbourne, Cire Services has earned its reputation as a responsive training provider and respected advocate for people who experience social and economic disadvantage. Since it first began operating in 1976, Cire Services has expanded enormously, and operates across sites in Lilydale, Yarra Junction, Mount Evelyn, Chirnside Park, and Mooroolbark. There are several arms to the organisation, including childcare, and an abundance of flexible learning opportunities.

The Cire Community School pioneered educational options for years 7 to 12 students who need an alternative to mainstream education. Cire Training is a Registered Training Organisation offering a wide range of community-based pre-accredited and accredited programs for adults through its Training & Hubs Department. In 2019, Cire welcomed 661 student enrolments, and many continued on to enrol in further pre-accredited or accredited qualifications.

Cire Services always follows through on its promises and nurtures learners towards a positive future. It moves nimbly with the times to create relevant, innovative solutions for training that benefits students and industry. The quality of its programs is reflected in high retention and completion rates as well as employment opportunities within the region.

Williamstown Community and Education Centre Inc.

Williamstown Community and Education Centre (WCEC) is riding high on its successes but it never rests on them. WCEC is a not-for-profit Community Centre, Learn Local, Neighbourhood House, childcare provider and Registered Training Provider (RTO) that offers a range of programs and services to the Hobsons Bay community. In the past 12 months it has won the Hobsons Bay Council Small Business Excellence Award, achieved an almost unprecedented fully compliant Victorian Regulations and Qualifications Authority audit, and won the National Terracycle Award for the 'Best Idea to End Plastic Pollution'.

Wholly responsive to the needs of community, including people from CALD backgrounds, learners living with disabilities and disadvantaged people, they offer a range of opportunities and pathways. Their pre-accredited and accredited courses, and Skills for Education and Employment training focuses on reading, writing, language and computer skills.

WCEC initiatives are supporting disengaged and marginalised learners to get involved with the centre and achieve goals of further study and/or employment, which is having a positive social, and economic impact at the individual and community levels. Their quality indicator student survey of 2019 revealed that overall satisfaction rates were at 88.5% in 2019, compared to the Victorian average of 43.5%.

Inclusive Training Provider of the Year




GOTAFE is the largest vocational education provider in Northern Victoria servicing a population of over 286,484 people across nine campuses. It plays a critical role in providing public education to over 9,400 students from a variety of education and socio-economic backgrounds, including areas of high disadvantage. The 2019 student population                included 981 students (11%) and 20 (4%) staff members self-identified as living with a disability.

Curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and reporting practices respond to the specific needs of students living with a disability and their Student Equitable Learning Support Procedures ensure that students living with a disability participate in courses alongside their classmates. They're offered a broad range of courses and engage in hands-on, real world learning experiences delivered flexibly.

GOTAFE strives for inclusion by design through their Social Justice Charter (2019 – 2023). They lead the sector in positively impacting the achievements and well-being of students, and have embedded the universal principles of equity, fairness, and respect into all aspects of the learning experience. This has resulted in increased student enrolments from 9.4% in 2016 to 11.8% in 2019, with a course completion rate of 92%.

Box Hill Institute

A ground-breaking moment for the disability sector happened in 2017. Box Hill Institute (BHI) was awarded a government-funded contract to provide Disability Employment Services with programs to assist people facing complex barriers to employment, gain and maintain ongoing work. The on-campus programs are developed in consultation between the BHI, the disability service provider and participants and their families or carers.

Together they've formulated holistic individualised programs that consider the students attitudes, abilities, experiences, needs and goals. It has been heart-warming for all the stakeholders to see the students fulfil their potential. Learners have developed skills to become more involved in their community, and developed the confidence and ability to achieve independent living, further study and/or employment.

Lives are truly transformed so that young people living with a disability can take their rightful place in the community. Safe learning spaces are created for new students to learn and thrive. Families watch as their young adult children mature, which alleviates their own anxieties about their children's future. Box Hill Institute students thrive socially on campus as they put their newly acquired life-skills into practice and make lasting friendships.

National Food Institute

National Food Institute is a Registered Training Organisation that provides workplace training and assessment for the food processing, warehousing and transport and logistics industries. Part of its mandate is to provide specialist training for students with a range of intellectual and learning disabilities to give them real workplace skills so they can gain employment when they leave school.

These programs are delivered through School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships and part of its success is due to great partnerships with like-minded employers, giving the students a wide range of employment opportunities. These include organisations such as Gre8 who own baking facility Make n Bake, and Foodbank, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Mambourin Enterprises, Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust, City of Greater Dandenong and Hopeworks Community Solutions.

National Food Institute's view is that all trainees can achieve despite the challenges they may need to overcome. The students often start the program lacking confidence. They find it difficult to cope with change and experience fear, anxiety and resistance to tackling something new. Due to the institutes' innovative practices, attendance rates are high, students arrive at work on time, and experience a lot of happiness as they become confident workplace operators with skills that can be transferred to future employment settings.

Small Training Provider of the Year


Builders Academy Australia

Builders Academy Australia

At Builders Academy of Australia (BAA) students are taken on a journey to mastery by builders who know their trade through and through. To date, over 8,000 graduates have successfully achieved nationally accredited qualifications for work in the building and construction industry.

BAA strives to positively impact the building and construction sector through delivering high quality trade training. They offer workplace-based pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships as well as traineeship models that are delivered in custom built training centres and management level qualifications delivered via a live and interactive virtual classroom mode.

BAA's strong reputation and brand has helped them maintain high student enrolments and retention rates, despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Student enrolments from March to June 2020 exceeded those for the same period in 2019 by 190% and retention rates exceeded equivalent periods in prior years.

Health Careers International Pty Ltd

One of Australia's fastest growing industries is the health and community services sector. Anchored in formal processes and procedures, it requires staff who are ready to embrace a new generation of technologies and tools. This, coupled with the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, led Health Careers International Pty Ltd (HCI) to refocus their training delivery.

HCI's key areas of expertise and course delivery are nursing, health and community services, including aged care, disability support and early childhood education and care. They train nurses and healthcare workers across three campuses each in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. To date, it's trained over 10,000 students from Australia and internationally for careers in nursing, community, aged care and administration, as well as management roles in the healthcare sector.

Health Career International's commitment to innovation and industry focused training has been recognised and awarded many times. In 2018 they received the "Nursing and Health Care Training Excellence award from McMillian Woods Global Awards, and the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council declared that HCI's facilities are a benchmark for all their other teaching facilities across Australia.

Ringwood Training

As a government-school Registered Training Organisation (RTO) that resides on the Ringwood Secondary College campus, Ringwood Training provides its school community with unique opportunities. It delivers vocational education and training qualifications to post-school and school-based students in automotive, engineering fabrication and information communication technology (ICT). Each of the three specialist training departments feature industry standard training facilities and high-tech machinery and equipment.

Being small doesn't mean going unnoticed. Ringwood Training is renowned in Victoria for leading practices, student numbers continue to grow across all three training areas, and other RTO's regularly seek their advice on delivery methodology and the flexibility of their programs. This is reflected in the results of the 2019 Victorian Quality Indicators Survey, demonstrating that Ringwood Training was well above the state average in all key areas.

Large Training Provider of the Year


South West TAFE

South West TAFE

As the largest vocational education and training provider in south-west Victoria, South West TAFE (SWTAFE) services a population of over 120,000 across 24,000 square kilometres and five campuses. It proudly plays an integral role in developing a skilled workforce that supports the regions industries and communities. 

SWTAFE sits at the frontline of tackling social disadvantage. A high proportion of students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, including vulnerable young people, long-term unemployed, people with learning and physical disabilities, as well as students identifying as Koorie.

SWTAFE is recognised globally by the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (2018), Colleges and Institutes Canada (2019), and TAFE Directors Australia, for its nimble and innovative approach to reimagining learning. Their smart classrooms extend program delivery to remote campuses so that study options are expanded for over 400 students.

High-quality educational programs are delivered by highly-skilled, industry-current teachers, which translates to innovative and industry-informed approaches to program delivery. As a result, 85% of SWTAFE students report improved job outcomes following their studies.


GOTAFE is focused on the ongoing development of communities in the Hume region. In 2019, GOTAFE's training delivery exceeded 2.82 million student contact hours to 9,435 individual students. Its module completion rate was 83.3%. There are few areas that GOTAFE is not engaged in and they have a long history of mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations across a broad range of industries and the community, which have focused on addressing short falls in qualified and skilled workers within the Hume region.

In response GOTAFE constructs best-practice training and facilities across its campuses. A new $2.5 million Health and Community Training Facility will be constructed at the Seymour campus for new health and community education courses, and they've recently installed new barber equipment and state of the art baking facilities.

As the world changes, GOTAFE is continually adjusting to remain at the forefront of training delivery. It strives to be more than just an educational facility, but a place where people from all backgrounds and abilities feel safe and included; where people feel like they belong. 

Box Hill Institute

2019 saw Box Hill Institute (BHI) immersed in a kaleidoscopic array of new facilities and refreshed programs. It launched a new strategic plan, and successfully delivered a broad range of quality vocational education and training services to around 60,000 students across secondary, vocational education and training, higher education and industry sectors.

In addition to scanning domestic and international employment markets in search of opportunities for new courses, BHI works closely with state and federal governments regarding their employment priorities. In response to government initiatives, they developed the Biosecurity Centre of Excellence, which delivers industry-led research and training into pests and diseases that threaten Australia's food and agriculture industries, as well as the identification and prevention of biosecurity threats.

Industries of the future become the courses of now and BHI takes great pride in their ability to successfully deliver such a broad range of quality training. The happy results are reflected in the student satisfaction survey with an 86% rating.