South West TAFE is one of three finalists for the Large Training Provider of the Year title, alongside Go TAFE and Box Hill Institute.
Apprentice plumber Shona McGuigan, who completed her Certificate III in Plumbing at South West TAFE, is also one of three finalists in her category.
Winners will be announced as part of a new virtual format on a date to be confirmed. Some winners will go on to represent Victoria at the Australian Training Awards in November.
CEO Mark Fidge said South West TAFE was proud to play an integral role in developing a skilled workforce and supporting south-west Victoria’s industries and communities.
“Being recognised as a finalist acknowledges the outstanding achievements of our highly regarded staff, affirms the smart decisions made by our students in choosing SWTAFE, and confirms our standing in the local community as a leader in our region,” Mr Fidge said.
In 2019, South West TAFE delivered training to 5,000 students in Colac, Hamilton, Portland, Warrnambool and Glenormiston, leading to about 4,260 jobs.
“We are proud of the role we play in assisting our regional communities to achieve their current and future career aspirations as we aim to provide education that creates a lifetime of opportunity for all,” Mr Fidge said.
Ms McGuigan grew up on a farm at Mortlake and knew she wanted to work outdoors and use hands-on skills. A South West TAFE Taster Day gave her a look at the plumbing industry, prompting her to enrol in a VET In Schools plumbing program.
However, it wasn’t an easy journey. “I had my sceptics who didn’t take me seriously when I told them I wanted to be a plumber and it was daunting entering a male-dominated trade,” she said.
“But it made me determined to work in this field and once I got into the TAFE environment it was easy,” she said.
Ms McGuigan went on to win two VET In Schools awards at South West TAFE and she secured a four-year apprenticeship at Cri-tech, which she will complete later this year.
She has another challenge with her first child on the way.
“I’m now 31 weeks pregnant so I’ve recently moved into the office but I love working on the tools and can’t wait to be back out there,” she said.
Ms McGuigan hopes her success will inspire others. “I was shocked but very happy when I found out I was a finalist on that big a scale. I didn’t think what I’d done was that big a deal; I just felt like one of the boys and completed an apprenticeship like anyone else, but I hope I can inspire some other women to look at trade apprenticeships.”
Ms McGuigan was the first female plumbing apprentice at Cri-tech but the firm now has a female apprentice refrigeration mechanic.
“South West TAFE helped me realise this was the best decision of my life and have supported and encouraged me every step of the way,” she said. “Studying at TAFE gave me so much confidence that I now take the lead in jobs at work.
“I walked out of the course with more attributes than when I walked in and finished with more energy to push and strive for more.”
Ms McGuigan has also taken on a role of helping to mentor three young girls, one studying automotive and two studying plumbing.