Australian Apprentice of the Year on the path to success

Mar 05, 2018

Gemma Hartwig’s earliest recollections are of tinkering away on machinery at the family farm in Dalby. With her uncle, grandfather and great grandfather all working in mechanical trades, becoming a diesel fitter wasn’t just a career choice, it was in her blood.

Ms Hartwig secured an apprenticeship with a local company and was able to finish school and fast track her career.

“I am not particularly academic and I was ready to leave school at the end of year 10, but when the opportunity of doing an Australian school-based apprenticeship in diesel fitting came up, I jumped at the chance,” she said.

“The school-based apprenticeship allowed me to do something I really loved and begin a qualification all while I finished school.

“In fact, in Year 12 I was happy that I had my career all mapped out while many of my friends were struggling over making career plans and figuring out university preferences.

“Doing the school-based apprenticeship meant I spent about one week a month in my workplace and the other three or four weeks going to school. Having that week away doing something hands-on and practical was really beneficial for me and also kept me interested in school. I learnt a lot of really great skills in teamwork, communication and leadership in my first year, which I was able to bring back to the school environment. This led me to becoming College Captain in Year 12.

“Being a female in a male-dominated profession has given me the opportunity to make a difference.

“I am starting my own business, called ‘She Can’, which offers advice and support to women who are thinking becoming an apprentice in a male-dominated profession. I would have found a service like this really valuable when I was doing my apprenticeship.”

Gemma’s passion for her trade has already netted her some significant wins, including the Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year Award at the 2014 Queensland Training Awards and the coveted Australian Apprentice of the Year Award at the 2017 Australian Training Awards. 

Gemma is also a member of the Australian VET Alumni and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors Program where she actively volunteers her time to talk to young people about vocational education and training career pathways – particularly sharing the importance of these pathways for women who wish to enter trades based careers.   

Nominations for the 2018 Queensland Training Awards close on 16 March, so if your passions have been ignited through your experience in vocational education and training (VET), submit your nomination now. Winners in aligned categories may have the opportunity to represent Queensland at the Australian Training Awards this year on 15 November in Sydney.