THE best apprentices and trainees throughout the region have been rewarded for their efforts at the 2022 New England Training Awards.
Among them, two locals: Armidale's Emma Pearson and Tara Vickery from Rocky River.
NSW Department of Industry New England training services manager, Bede Maher, said the awards were highly sought after and put the winners on a great pathway.
"It's a huge feather in the cap to be the top achiever," he said. "It's certainly a huge achievement for them and for the employers that take them on."
Emma Pearson was named Vocational Student of the Year and said she felt honoured to be nominated.
"To be able to win was just unbelievable," she said.
On receiving her award, Emma was described as an "extremely diligent and self-motivated student, embracing challenges with a can-do attitude and hard work to achieve her goals".
"Emma is reliable, punctual and can turn her hand to anything on the farm. Emma is always one step ahead."
The 20-year-old completed a Certificate IV in Wool Classing.
Being raised on her family's sheep and cattle property, "Glenbrook" near Armidale, sparked Emma's passion in the industry.
"I fell in love with working with livestock, and I loved training working dogs, but what made me really fall in love with the wool industry is working alongside my Dad. We have a merino stud and I loved spending hours in the shearing shed at shearing and preparing rams for shows," she said.
Emma attended Duval High School and completed Certificates II and III in Agriculture at TAFE one day per week whilst studying her HSC.
"I went away for a year to study my Certificate IV and Diploma in Agriculture at Tocal College and am now living in Armidale where I completed my wool classing certificate last year.
"I really loved training at TAFE NSW and Tocal college. They both provided me with such a hands-on approach to learning and gave me experience in nearly every opportunity with agriculture," she said.
"We are able to do theory in the classroom then go out and put that theory to practice. I find hands-on learning is giving people skills, not just knowledge, about the industry. It makes you able to walk straight out of TAFE or Tocal and be able to be competent within a job."
Since completing her training, Emma has been working on her family's property and at the local saleyards, and also does casual work in the shearing industry and on other properties.
"It's hard to choose my favourite part of my job but I love that every day is different and not one job is the same," she said.
"I love being able to work with animals every day and work in such an evolving industry to improve productivity. But I also love working with the people in the industry. I have made so many friends.
"I think over the last few years women getting into ag has become easier. Everyone is starting to realise we can do the job in a typical man's industry, if not better, in some cases," Emma said.
"But there still is a long way to go. Many industries within agriculture still aren't as accepting to women," she added.
"The shearing industry has had a large women role for a while. I think it's great to see women working in the sheds. But lately I have been talking to more and more girls working in less traditional shed roles like shearing, wool classing or pressers."
Emma encouraged others to follow their passions.
"Just go for it. And training organisations such as TAFE have so many career paths and will really be able to provide you with life-long skills," she said.
Emma thanked her family, friends and work colleagues for their support but made special mention of her teacher Pauline Smith.
This year's School-based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year is Tara Vickery.
The Year 12 Uralla Central School student is studying a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care online through Tafe NSW Armidale and works at Uralla Preschool two days a week.
Whilst struggling to find a sense of direction, like many teens, the 17-year-old found her passion after participating in work experience.
"I always wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher ever since I was young and I always liked to babysit or spend time with family and friends who had younger children," Tara said.
"I struggled to find motivation to push myself at school. I wasn't attending and had no desire to engage in any of my classes. This also was the case for my life outside of school as well; I found little enjoyment in activities and I felt directionless," she said.
"In year 10 I reached out to do work experience at Uralla Preschool and instantly fell in love with the work I was exposed to. I told my careers teacher how much I loved and enjoyed my brief work experience and she offered for me to become a school-based trainee and I jumped at the opportunity.
Tara said the industry had significantly shaped her to be the bubbly, creative person she is today but admitted the work wasn't without its challenges.
"Childcare is a very underrated. There is so much more to this industry than meets the eye," she said.
"To do this job you have to be flexible, confident, reliable, compassionate and understand that every child is unique. You have to cater for all children and their behavior, and support them through the vulnerable stage of life that they're currently at.
"My favorite part is engaging with the children, learning who they are and creating a connection with them. Because of this I get to see them grow, learn and develop whilst being able to offer support to them."
Tara said she was "unbelievably honored" to have been nominated for the award and was "so excited" to be named as a finalist.
"I'm beyond grateful for winning the award and am so proud of myself; I cant wipe the smile off my face!
"The feedback I have received from the community has been tremendous. I've received so much support and many congratulations which I am thankful for and appreciate. Everybody has shared such kind words which has filled me with so much joy."
Tara will fly to Sydney in July for the NSW Training Awards 2022 state interview where she will present a verbal presentation to a panel, speaking about her vocational training and all she has experienced.
She has also been invited to participate in a campaign called 'Wish I'd known' which highlights what extraordinary VET students, like Tara, wished they had known before starting training. From there, interview finalists will be chosen for the 2022 NSW School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year and be invited back for the awards night.
"I have been told by many this is a massive achievement and will look fantastic on my resume and in my portfolio for when I go for jobs and positions in other work environments," Tara said.
"I would love to thank my amazing support team which includes my family, my teacher Jodie Taylor for pushing me and believing in me, my TAFE teachers and Tracey Dooner for delivering my course.
"Also, the director at Uralla Preschool Anne Percy, and all the other educators at Uralla Preschool for giving me support and confidence in the workplace, being so kind and lovely to me and for creating an environment for me to flourish in. The guidance these ladies have given me throughout my traineeship is remarkable and something I don't take for granted. I know I wouldn't be in the position I am today without them, and I appreciate all the time, effort and belief they have put in me. Thank you a million times over to them."
Tara aspires to undertake further education through university to become a primary school teacher.
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