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Females triumph at Gold Coast Apprentice Awards

The 2023 TAFE Queensland Gold Coast Apprentice Awards shone a spotlight on exceptional apprentices across the region - celebrated for their dedication and skills.

Among them were nine women who were all finalists determined to break barriers and prove gender should never be a limitation in any profession.

Women were represented in a wide range of trades including electrotechnology, refrigeration and air conditioning, cabinet making and shopfitting, horticulture and landscaping, plumbing and painting. 

At the centre was Shelley Spencer, a passionate and skilled electrician who took out both ‘Completing Electrical Apprentice of the Year’ and the ‘Overall Outstanding Apprentice of the Year.’

The 29-year-old breaking down stereotypes about women excelling in traditionally male-dominated trades.

“I was blown away and never envisioned to not only win for electrical final year apprentice of the year but to also win the outstanding apprentice of the year award across all trades,” said Shelley.

“I am so incredibly proud of my achievements. All the hard work I put in paid off,” she said.

Shelley, who is employed by McGrath Electrical, encourages any young girl wanting to do a trade to just go for it.

“You can do anything you put your mind to - male or female. And as a female to win the top award, it just goes to show there are no limitations on what we can do,” she said.

The victories didn't stop there. In the cabinet making and shopfitting category, Holli Ryder claimed the well-deserved ‘Completing Apprentice’ award win.

Holli Ryder

Employed at PCS Cabinets, the 19-year-old had faced scepticism in her journey, but she let her work speak for itself.

"Never would I have thought I would get it, but I am so proud of myself,” said Holli.

“I’m so honoured and I'm thankful for my bosses and my teachers from the Ashmore campus. They were always supporting me and pushing me to be the best version of myself, not only as an apprentice but as a person in general."

Being a female in a male-dominated trade brought its own set of challenges, but Holli embraces them.

"I feel empowered to prove that women can do anything a man can do,” she said.

Meanwhile fellow Ashmore campus apprentice, Stacy Taylor, took out the ‘Completing Apprentice Award’ in the refrigeration and air conditioning category.

The ceremony turned into a celebration of diversity and determination, as these talented women and many young men were acknowledged for their skills and contributions to their trade.

Shelley, Holli and Stacy are all role models for the next generation of tradespeople, inspiring other females to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

This trend of tradeswomen emerging as award winners was echoed in other TAFE Queensland regions with two female winners at the SkillsTech Apprentice awards.