December 3, 2017

TAFE success at training awards

By The Stop TAFE Cuts team

The Australian Training Awards were held in Canberra last week, and once again – TAFE institutes, staff and students dominated the field bringing home 9 awards in total.

The Australian Training Awards were first held in 1994. Each state and territory holds their own training awards throughout the year, with winners eligible to compete at the national level. The awards work to promote continuous improvement and innovation in VET, and to bring awareness and respect to Australia’s VET sector.

A TAFE institute has won the Large Training Provider of the Year Award every year since 1996, with the exception of 2015. This year the winner was The Gordon Institute of TAFE, located in Geelong, Victoria. The Gordon have celebrated a number of successes in the last few years including the opening of two new training facilities. Working in a community that is rapidly growing and experiencing a major transition following the decline of the automotive industry – The Gordon has taken a lead role in the Skilling the Bay project; focused on raising education attainment, workforce participation, and growing existing and emerging industries. The Gordon has continued its 130- year old legacy as a vital part of the Geelong community, and this award is an acknowledgement of its continued work.

The Holmesglen Institute, another TAFE in Victoria, was also successful at the training awards. Holmesglen received the International Training Provider of the Year Award, acknowledging its 30+ years of English Language Intensive Courses, and 20 years of transnational education partnerships. Each year between 3000 and 4000 international students enrol at Holmesglen every year and its student and staff population represents over 77 countries. International students have long been a target for unscrupulous providers, but TAFEs like Holmesglen continue to provide quality and assurance for international students.

Holmesglen was also acknowledged for its part in “Futuretech” which won the Industry Collaboration Award. Futuretech is a joint venture between the ETU, and Holmesglen; and offers 19 accredited and professional development courses in electro technology, telecommunications, cabling, Occupational Health and Safety, and testing.

Alongside the achievements of TAFE institutes, several TAFE students and apprentices were successful at the awards.

Rachelle Boyd from South Australia won the Vocational Student of the Year award. Rachelle is pursuing a career in event management. She works for All Occasions Group and balances work and study, completing an Advanced Diploma of Event Management at TAFE SA. The runner up in this award, is also a TAFE student – Liam Muldoon obtained his Certificate IV in Automotive Mechanical Diagnosis by remote studies via TAFE NSW.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year was awarded to TAFE NSW plumbing apprentice Donald Dundas. Donald said he chose to undertake a Certificate III in plumbing through TAFE NSW because he believes more Aboriginal people should be in the trade. “I’m a proud Aboriginal man driven to be a leader not only of my people, but to encourage all to have a go and better themselves,” he said.

Australian Apprentice of the Year, Gemma Hartwig, echoed these leadership sentiments saying, “I want to be a role model not only for my sisters and people my age but encourage (others) to join VET and know it is a valid path way,” she said. Gemma, a TAFE Queensland student, is working in the heavily male dominated area of Diesel Fitting. In 2014, Gemma was given the Queensland Training Awards School based Apprentice award, three years later she continues to be a passionate advocate for vocational education and apprenticeships.

The runner up for Apprentice of The Year, Jordan Cahill, was also a TAFE student. Studying Landscape Construction, Jordan Cahill credits his TAFE teachers for pushing him to reach the highest standards. Also a successful WorldSkills competitor, Jordan undertook work experience at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show, and hopes to one day own his own business.

In addition to these student achievements, two TAFE teachers were recognised for their hard work and dedication winning VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year, and the Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award.

Finally, the Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to former Holmesglen CEO, Bruce Mackenzie. Bruce’s involvement in TAFE goes back to the early 80s when he was a member of a four person unit that designed the TAFE system for Victoria. He was also Chief Executive of the Holmesglen Institute for 31 years and a founding member of TAFE Directors Australia. A substantial commitment to TAFE!

The success of TAFE at the Australian Training Awards serves to remind us of the excellent work that TAFEs continue to do – despite funding cuts, privatisation, job losses and a myriad of other problems in the sector.

TAFEs most vocal critics, chide it for being a place of “basket weaving”; an irrelevant dinosaur; costly and ineffective. The TAFE institutes, programs, teachers and students whose achievements have been recognised at these awards shows the TAFE system to be responsive, engaged with its communities, agile, innovative and providing education and pathways to employment and further study for students of all ages, backgrounds and aspirations.

While the Awards aim to bring awareness and respect to the whole VET sector, it is hard to read the result as anything less than a ringing endorsement of our public TAFE system.

For more information on the awards and all the nominees – head to