2020 VTA Winners

Learn more about previous Victorian Training Awards winners below.

Throughout their history, the Victorian Training Awards (VTA) have celebrated the outstanding achievements of a wealth of individuals, teachers, employers and training providers. Their stories are truly inspiring. The VTA's Where are they Now? campaign captures those stories and showcases how the journeys of VTA finalists and winners have unfolded in ensuing years. 

Individual Categories

Apprentice of the Year

Winner

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

Joel Handcock
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, 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

Nicholas Steer
Certificate IV in Business, Chisholm Institute

Vocational Student of the Year

Winner

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

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

School-based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year

Winner

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

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

Koorie Student of the Year

Winner

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

Elva Smerotkins
Certificate III in Commercial Cookery, SuniTAFE, Mildura

Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award

Winner

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

Torin Coakley
Bendigo TAFE

Employer Categories

Medium Employer of the Year

Winner

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

Winner

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. 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

Winner

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

IBM A/NZ
Federation TAFE & IBM Australia Ltd

Training Provider Categories

Community Training Provider of the Year

Winner

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. 

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.

Williamstown Community and Education Centre Inc.

Inclusive Training Provider of the Year

Winner

GOTAFE

GOTAFE

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.

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

National Food Institute

Small Training Provider of the Year

Winner

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

Ringwood Training


Large Training Provider of the Year

Winner

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.

GOTAFE

Box Hill Institute