2022 SATA Vocational Student of the Year Finalists

Congratulations to all 2022 South Australian Training Awards Finalists

Meet all of the finalists in the Vocational Student of the Year category for the 2022 South Australian Training Awards – what an inspiring group of individuals!

Get to know each of the finalists by reading their bios and don’t forget to vote for your favourite finalist in the Voters' Choice Award.

The 2022 Vocational Student of the Year category is proudly sponsored by Statewide Group Training (SA).

Gemma Russell

Diploma of Nursing

Trained by TAFE SA

Employed by ACHA - Flinders Private Hospital

Vote for Gemma in the 2022 Voter's Choice Award

Gemma is currently employed as a Nurse at Flinders Private Hospital, however her path towards nursing wasn’t a linear one.

She began her career working in industries such as Training and Development, Local Government and Car Parking – a far cry from any healthcare setting.

“For me it took a defining moment to realise that I was not in my happiest of places with regards to my career and was then determined to rectify this somehow,” Gemma says.

“With the support of my family and friends and my personal drive, I became a very proud mature-aged student.”

“I believe that achievement is not just accomplished by one person.”

“It takes drive, patience, support, knowledge, care, determination, nurturing, planning, commitment, sacrifice and resilience by all involved – not only the student, but their lecturers and the student’s friends and family too.”

“I am now currently working as an enrolled nurse at Flinders Private Hospital and am honestly living my dream.”

Gemma believes she is a strong example that it is never too late to study and change your career.

She advocates for the benefits of study and how quality education can change your life and enable you to reach your lifetime goals and long-time dream career.

Layla Syed

Certificate II in Kitchen Operations

Trained by Adelaide Institute of Hospitality

Employed by Saints Foodland

School: St Patrick's Technical College

Vote for Layla in the 2022 Voter's Choice Award

Layla Syed is a Year 11 Hospitality Student at St Patrick’s Technical College in Edinburgh North SA.

She is currently undertaking a Certificate II in Kitchen Operations with the Adelaide Institute of Hospitality.

Layla has always had a great interest in baking from a young age, with her great nana Lynette teaching her everything she knows.

She passed on her recipes and bakeware and is still on hand to inspire and teach her today.

“My solo journey as a baker began in March 2020 during the peak of the covid pandemic,” Layla says.

“I used cooking as a creative outlet during Covid and a way to alleviate boredom and isolation as all other hobbies were cancelled.”

Layla started posting pictures of her food on her social media page and it blew up to the point where people were asking her to make cakes and cookies for their events.

This led to the creation of a dedicated social media page for the business and 'Layla's Desserts' was born.

Over the last three years, Layla has filled hundreds of orders and they are still rolling in. Her most popular social media post has over 48,000 interactions.

This has led her to pursue a VET course in Kitchen Operations and clearly defined her pathway as a pâtissier.

In the future, Layla dreams of becoming a qualified Patisserie, working and travelling the world learning and developing her skills and craft.

Madison Taylor

Certificate II in Electrotechnology

Trained by PEER

School Burra Community High School

Vote for Madison in the 2022 Voter's Choice Award

Maddy is a rural student completing her Year 12 studies at Burra Community School.

Last year, her VET coordinator encouraged students at her school to pick up a trade if they were interested in trying an apprenticeship in the near future.

“This was quite difficult as we lived two hours away from Adelaide and required someone to teach on site,” Maddy says.

“I advocated for the school to find a trade program which could be run in the local area, providing all students with the opportunity to complete a trade.”

“I was interested in becoming an electrician, so the school contacted PEER and they agreed to teach the trade at our school within our workshop each week.”

“My VET coordinator first inspired me as he said that this would encourage the community to break the stigma around women working in the trade industry.”

“He knew that I wasn’t interested in the subjects at school and pushed for me to be able to complete this course.”

“I was also inspired by Mum and Dad who had told me many stories about females successfully working in industries.”

Maddy’s future aspirations consist of completing her Year 12 studies and obtaining an apprenticeship.

“I’ve had offers from companies who are willing to take on a female apprentice with my current certificate.”

“I would like to have the opportunity to start up my own electrical business in Burra, as people could then have constant access to a local electrician.”

John - Tri Khang Than

Certificate III Commercial Cookery

Trained by TAFE SA

Employed by Salopian Inn

Vote for John in the 2022 Voter's Choice Award

John initially studied at university but felt a lack of direction during his studies.

Taking a break from study to avoid burnout, John started to fall in love with cooking, which led him to consider this as a potential career path.

“At the age of 27, I decided to enrol into Certificate III Commercial Cookery, which was a turning point for me,” John says.

“Almost immediately I had this drive and hunger to learn as much as possible.”

“My long-term goal is to open my own restaurant. I have been inspired by my employers to operate in a sustainable manner to do my part to help the environment, which I aim to pass down.”

John is now furthering his studies with a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level 2 Awards, whilst employed at The Salopian Inn.

Just three months after starting at Salopian he was given a promotion.

“I was extremely happy and proud when I received this news because it showed that my employers valued me, and it further validated the training I received at TAFE.”

“This was the point I stopped doubting myself and it boosted my confidence to another level.”

“Without the support of my lecturers at TAFE I wouldn’t be where I am today – they have encouraged me to push harder, to get out of my comfort zone and helped me get my foot in the door in the industry.”