Bendigo TAFE celebrates top achievers from Class of 2019

A young father and second-time apprentice, a beauty therapist who survived an assault and an aspiring teacher who overcame years of bullying are amongst Bendigo TAFE’s major award winners from the Class of 2019.

Recognised at Bendigo TAFE’s annual Industry Excellence Awards Ceremony on 12 February, the award winners had one thing in common: an unwavering commitment to achieving educational success despite difficult challenges.

Of 32 awards presented, top accolades included the Vocational Student of the Year, Apprentice of the Year and Inspirational Young Achiever Awards.

Diploma of Beauty Therapy (SHB50115) student Brittany Maskell was named Vocational Student of the Year, and received a $1,000 cash prize sponsored by City of Greater Bendigo.

“The training that I got from Bendigo TAFE has changed my life dramatically. I now have a job that I’m very passionate about and I see myself moving very far in this field,” she said

Brittany’s educational journey wasn’t always smooth-sailing. After previously experiencing an assault as a student, Brittany was left unable to complete her studies and fearful of returning to an educational environment. But her experience at Bendigo TAFE turned things around.

“Through the help and support of my teachers and peers, I was able to feel very comfortable, confident and supported,” she said.

“The best part of studying at Bendigo TAFE was the teachers. Their enthusiasm for everything, diversity, knowledge and experience was wonderful. It really captured my attention and made me want to be the best that I could be in this environment.”

Brittany is thriving as an advanced skin and laser therapist and anticipates running her own business one day.

“I want to give my clients the best results and hopefully, one day, manage my own clinic doing advanced skin treatments,” she shared.

Currently employed at Simplot Australia, Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE30811) apprentice Joel Handcock was named Apprentice of the Year and presented a $1,000 cash prize sponsored by Bendigo Stadium.

“I chose to do an electrotechnology apprenticeship after 10 years of being a fitter – it wasn’t the right path for me. This apprenticeship has completely turned my life around. Now, electrotechnology is my passion,” he said.

Changing trades and welcoming a daughter during his first year of apprenticeship were significant challenges for Joel.

“I was a tradesman and I had apprentices under me, so going back to square one… was a big challenge,” he shared.

“My daughter (was) born within three months of starting my apprenticeship. That was big. Lack of sleep, family life and trying to balance everything… but we got through.”   

Joel recently received a $12,000 International Apprentice Scholarship from the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) Australia and plans to travel to the United States to learn about apprenticeship training and automation technology.

“I’d like to thank all my teachers who have played a role in helping me through the years. I especially thank my third year teacher Robert Spicer for being a very supportive teacher and mentor, and also someone I can call a mate,” he said.

“I also want to thank Simplot – they have given me the opportunity to pursue two trade careers and I could not be more grateful.”

Named Bendigo TAFE’s Inspirational Young Achiever of the Year, Euan Suarez aspires to be an educator who positively impacts the lives of young people.

Euan migrated from Philippines to Australia in 2015. Subject to bullying throughout secondary schooling, Euan remained focused on his study goals and sought support from his teachers, family and friends to remain positive.

He was particularly inspired by his psychology teacher who made education fun and exciting – this inspired Euan to pursue teaching as a career so he could do the same for others.  

“I chose to do the education support course to get experience working in the classroom as I want to become a teacher in the future,” said Euan, who completed the Certificate III in Education Support (CHC30213) at Bendigo TAFE despite two-hour long commutes to campus.

“At the core of my training at TAFE was my practical placement - this part of the course made it clear to me that working with children and helping them learn and grow are true passions of mine.”

As part of his award, Euan received a cash prize of $500 sponsored by Impact Digital. He is poised to commence a Bachelor of Arts this year while working as a primary school teacher aide to stay connected to teaching. He hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree in teaching eventually.

“I express an immense amount of gratitude to my TAFE teachers Sonia Brinkman and Lisa Flanagan for being such wonderful mentors,” he said.

“I appreciate the time they take to answer my questions and highly regard their advice. I cannot thank them enough.”

Other awards across automotive, construction and industrial, health and community, food and fibre, professional and creative, and Indigenous studies were presented at the Bendigo TAFE ceremony held in All Seasons Resort Hotel, Bendigo.

State Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards MP, and industry guests joined award winners and Bendigo TAFE staff in the celebrations.

Bendigo TAFE CEO Sally Curtain congratulated all award winners and highlighted the roles played by educators, the Victorian Government and industry in the students’ success.

“Congratulations to all our award winners. The awards are recognition of our students’ hard work and commitment to education, and provide a platform for them to achieve bigger and brighter futures from here on,” she said.

“I’d like to highlight the role of Bendigo TAFE’s teachers and staff who’ve supported our award winners to arrive at this milestone.  

“I also acknowledge the role of the Victorian Government and our industry partners. Their support enables Bendigo TAFE to focus on providing high quality training that is aligned to industry, economy and community needs.”

Full list of awards:

  • Pre-Apprentice of the Year (Building) –  Vegar Almbakk, award sponsored by Elwood Work Wear
  • Pre Apprentice of the Year (Plumbing) – Jacobie Welsh, award sponsored by Reece Plumbing
  • School-based Apprentice and Trainee of the Year – Timothy Heather, award sponsored by BOC Gases
  • TJB Connor Award – Robert Fletcher, award sponsored by TJB Connor Family Trust
  • Outstanding Female Apprentice in Construction & Industrial – Millie White, award sponsored by Total Tools Bendigo
  • Jan Lorimer Trust Award –Gursimran Kaur, award sponsored by Jan Lorimer Trust
  • Outstanding Diploma of Nursing Student – Kerrie Hughes, award sponsored by La Trobe University
  • Outstanding Diploma of Community Services Student – Kate Stokie, award sponsored by La Trobe University
  • Outstanding Certificate III in Beauty Student – Tania Goss, award sponsored by My Hair Bendigo
  • Outstanding Certificate III in Barbering Student – Trevor Leach, award sponsored by Kings Domain
  • Inspirational Young Achiever of the Year – Euan Suarez, award sponsored by Impact Digital
  • Guide Dogs Victoria Inclusivity and Accessibility Award – Anne Reynard, award sponsored by Guide Dogs Victoria
  • Apprentice of the Year: Construction – William Hay, award sponsored by Milwaukee Tools AU
  • Apprentice of the Year: Engineering (Fabrication) – James Woollard, award sponsored by BOC Gases
  • Apprentice of the Year: Engineering (Mechanical)/Jack McPhail Award – Heath Squires, award sponsored by McPhail Family Trust
  • Apprentice of the Year: Electrical – Joel Handcock, award sponsored by Energy Safe Victoria
  • Apprentice of the Year: Plumbing – Luke Keuken, award sponsored by Reece Plumbing
  • Apprentice of the Year: Bricklaying – Leroy Walsh, award sponsored by OX tools
  • Apprentice of the Year: Conservation Land Management – Wendy Campbell, award sponsored by Bunnings
  • Apprentice of the Year: Commercial Cookery – Allira Hudson, award sponsored by Club Chef
  • Apprentice of the Year: Hairdressing – Kimaya Spruce, award sponsored by Excellent Edges
  • Apprentice of the Year: Automotive – Alex McMillan, award sponsored by CVGT
  • Overall Apprentice of the Year – Joel Handcock, award sponsored by Bendigo Stadium
  • Gold Medallion: Automotive – Jaidyn Berry, award sponsored by Apprenticeships Group Australia
  • Gold Medallion: Construction & Industrial – Hannah Mills, award sponsored by E+ Architects Group
  • Gold Medallion: Health & Community – Kerrie Hughes, award sponsored by Bendigo Health
  • Gold Medallion: Food & Fibre – Nicole McIvor Francis, award sponsored by Makita Power Garden
  • Gold Medallion: Professional & Creative – Brittany Maskell, award sponsored by Algologie and Dermalogica
  • Gold Medallion: Indigenous Education – Merekia George, award sponsored by Be.Bendigo
  • Student of the Year Award – Brittany Maskell, award sponsored by City of Greater Bendigo

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