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Top award contributes to career confidence

TAFE at School Tourism student Hannah Lawrence has won the Secondary Student of the Year Award at the 2022 Salute to Excellence Awards

The annual awards celebrated the outstanding achievements of Queensland's most talented tourism and hospitality educators, employers, and secondary students.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah, studying the Certificate II in Tourism (SIT20116), said she was proud of her achievement and incredibly grateful to be recognised amongst many other worthy finalists.

"Being awarded the Secondary Student of the Year Award feels amazing, and it hasn't sunk in just yet. It's a real honour, and I can't believe it," Hannah said.

After being inspired by the different cultures she experienced when travelling, knowing she wanted a career in tourism, she spoke to her high school teacher about how to get qualified.

"I just love tourism, and I've been lucky enough to travel to different countries and participate in school carnivals, which gave me an understanding of working behind the scenes to bring events to life," said Hannah.

"When I discussed with my teacher about studying tourism, I learnt about TAFE at School and realised that I could begin getting qualified right away, so I enrolled."

The TAFE at School program allows students like Hannah to study for a qualification at TAFE while in high school. Getting qualified enables them to join the workforce sooner, build practical skills, and graduate job ready, giving them a head start in the job market or enrol in further study.

"TAFE at School was exactly what I wanted, and coming to the South Bank campus one day per week to learn in an adult environment has been so amazing," explained Hannah.

Hannah credits her TAFE Queensland teachers and the hands-on teaching style for helping her take her first step towards the career of her dreams and win an award in the process.

"We create itineraries, make presentations specific to the industry and learn the business skills required to work within it. The class discussions and role plays are interesting because everyone has similar interests."

"I liked the hands-on approach to learning, as it built my knowledge and gave me the skills to apply that knowledge in real work."

Seeing her passion for learning, enthusiastic attitude and determination to seize every opportunity, Hannah's teachers encouraged her to enter the awards.

"I was a bit scared about applying, but after talking to teachers, I decided to go for it. There were two rounds of judging, including a written task and making a five-minute tourism video which I made about the Gold Coast."

"It was a lot of hands-on work, travel and research, but my studies and my teacher prepared me so well for it. My teacher's support was incredibly helpful, and they helped me even in the middle of the holidays."

After being told she was a finalist, Hannah attended the awards night, which saw her and her family glammed up and sitting in the company of Ministers, industry CEOs and other dignitaries.

"I had no idea what was going on, then we got to the awards presentation, and it was great to meet the other finalists. They called me the winner, and I was absolutely speechless."

"I certainly wasn't expecting to win, but I'm very grateful. Part of my prize includes a scholarship, which will see me return to TAFE Queensland to continue my tourism studies by completing the Diploma of Travel and Tourism Management (SIT50116)," said Hannah.

Hannah is now looking forward to using the motivation of her award win to finish high school and keep building her experience and confidence to work in tourism.

"TAFE Queensland gave me a taste of studying tourism, and winning the award has helped me determine that this is the industry for me. I would encourage everyone to study what they're passionate about and make it their career."

"Jump on the opportunities presented to you but also reach out to industry professionals, teachers, and past students on LinkedIn or research courses online to discover the less well-known opportunities. By learning what you're passionate about and getting the knowledge and experience you need in a supportive learning environment, you will get set up for success," concluded Hannah.