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Zoe turns timber passion into luxury yachts

“I always liked to work with timber. On finishing year 12 [in Belgium] I started my studies in antique furniture restoration to pursue my passion of history and timber. When I moved to Australia years later, the demand for that kind of job was very low to non-existent, so I had to adapt and make a change."

Zoe is employed by Maritimo – a luxury motor yacht manufacturer based on The Gold Coast. Maritimo, through the State Government-funded User Choice program chose TAFE Queensland to train Zoe as an apprentice via a Certificate III in Cabinet Making (MSF31113). Zoe attended TAFE Queensland’s Trade Training Centre at Ashmore every six weeks for intensive block training and recalls positive experiences with her teachers.

“My teachers at TAFE were Robert Brown and Roberto Viola, both very knowledgeable cabinet makers. They work well together as a team. Robert was in charge of the practical side and Roberto, the theory. They were really open to any questions and happy to answer them. They have always been helpful and supportive, and my experience with them as my teachers was amazing,” Zoe offered.

Zoe's reputation for perfection was workshop-wide, with her second-year cabinet making teacher, Bill Sawden, commenting, “Zoe had the focus, diligence and skill to make sure that everything she produced was of the highest quality. I wish there were more apprentices like Zoe. To this day, I use her projects as examples to show other students what standard they should aspire towards.”

The proof of Zoe's ability (and teaching quality) is in Zoe’s awards. Zoe took out the Boating Industry Association’s 2021 Queensland Apprentice of the Year, was a South East Region finalist for the Queensland Training Awards' Harry Hauenschild Apprentice of the Year Award, and during her training placed first in her cohort for her results in Year 1, second in Year 2 and then first again in Year 3.

“Maritimo’s clients demand nothing less than perfection. My previous experience in antique furniture restoration gave me a strong foundation and keen eye for detail that I was able to bring to my work. My training with TAFE Queensland has given me the necessary skills that I now contribute to the team at Maritimo. My colleagues consult me to provide my opinion and advice on how I would most effectively complete the complex tasks that are required. Furthermore, my training has given me excellent analytical and problem-solving skills. This has proved to be essential in order to complete tasks within the required timeframes,” said Zoe.

“And now, after finishing my apprenticeship, it's satisfying to be able to pick up the speed and still be able to produce a high quality of work. I am a perfectionist and love producing pretty things, I love to have a happy boss and most importantly, I love to know that my work helped make someone's dream come true. To see something materialise from just a mere idea and a quick sketch is exhilarating,” Zoe beamed.

When asked if she’d recommend this trade to women Zoe responded, “I would absolutely encourage them to do it – we need more women in the industry and we need to normalise their presence in workshops. And I would remind them that yes, it is a hard job but it’s totally feasible, you just have to learn and make sure you are using the right PPE and the right techniques to carry stuff around. Women are more than capable to accomplish great things in this industry."

“Actually, within Maritimo, we have normalised the inclusion of females in our male-dominated boating field. My quality workmanship has been used as an example to inspire future generations of apprentices, and Maritimo has now attracted a number of female and male apprentices. Balancing the female and male ratio in trades can be done,” Zoe said.

As for future plans, given Zoe recently completed her apprenticeship; “I hope to get more responsibilities around my workplace and be in a leadership role. I am very organised and even though I am very handy, I do love some paperwork from time to time. I was also selected by the management team at Maritimo to promote the brand at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show for three years in a row. This was a great privilege for me as I was able to answer questions from prospective and existing clients about the workmanship that Maritimo offers. To continue to assist Maritimo with the apprentices, to continue to be on the tools, and to represent them and be client facing is, and will continue to be, a real honour.”

No doubt Zoe will continue to craft a rewarding, prolific and enviable career.