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Described as a once in a lifetime apprentice, Abi Winter is making her mark as a fitter and turner.

Growing up on a property in North Queensland, Abi was always outside, tinkering on mechanical maintenance projects with her grandad.

When she finished high school, Abi wasn't initially sure what her future career path would hold.

"I tried to go to university, but I just wasn't interested in sitting inside a classroom. Then the opportunity came up to do a fitting and turning apprenticeship with the Townsville City Council and I haven't looked back," Abi said.

"I was the only girl at work and I was nervous at first, but I had the most supportive blokes around me who helped me smash it and now here I am!"

Around just one per cent of the fitting and turning workforce is female. Fitters and turners are the backbones of Australia's manufacturing and maintenance sector, creating, repairing and replacing engineering components for a variety of machinery used across a wide range of critical industries.

Abi said her Certificate III in Engineering - Mechanical Trade (MEM30205) studies was providing her with a range of valuable transferable skills.

"I love that my career path gels with my personal life. I live on a property and my fitting and turning skills come in handy every day. I'm a jack of all trades because as a fitter I am able to apply my skills to a lot of things around the place — from fixing our bore pump to welding our cattle yards. The saying is 'if it doesn't fit, turn it around and fit it again!'"

Abi said she had enjoyed mixing theory lessons with practical training at the Townsville (Trade Training Centre Bohle) campus.

"I like that there's a lot of people from different locations who come to Townsville to study. It has been great interacting with other apprentices and I even met my best mate at the campus who is also a fitter and turner."

Abi's dedication to her trade earned her the Automotive and Engineering Apprentice of the Year Award at the TAFE Queensland 2020 Townsville Trade Excellence Awards.

TAFE Queensland (north region) Engineering and Automotive Industry Portfolio Business Manager Karen Burnell said Abi was a deserving winner.

"Abi was also nominated for the Female Trades Student of the Year Award as well as the Outstanding Apprentice of the Year Award. Three nominations and one win highlighted Abi's professionalism and dedication to her training, as well as her passion for encouraging women to pursue a trade career," Karen said.

Townsville Deputy Mayor Mark Molachino said Abi had established herself as a role model.

"From the very beginning of her apprenticeship, Abi has demonstrated a passion for the fitting trade and an admirable work ethic. The quality of work delivered by Abi is superior to her experience. By excelling in her role, Abi demonstrates to industry the positive influence of women in trades," Cr Molachino said.

Abi said fitting and turning was a great career choice for women who want a rewarding and hands-on role.

"A typical week at the Council for me consists of a wide variety of jobs. I usually work on fixed plant or a variation of mechanical equipment, performing repairs on breakdowns and preventative maintenance. My work takes me all over the Townsville region, from Giru all the way to Paluma and everywhere in between, and that’s what makes my jobs so interesting."

"My advice to anyone considering a fitting and turning career is to just do it. Take the leap, because you'll go out there and love it," Abi said.

Learn more about engineering training  Learn more about apprenticeship training

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TAFE Queensland