The history of the NSW Training Awards

The early years

Apprenticeship Week of NSW trophy 1956NSW has a proud history of celebrating excellence in vocational education and training since 1955. At that time industry was expanding at an unprecedented rate resulting in a shortage of skilled trades-people. An organising
committee was commissioned to raise the profile of trade training to help young people realise it could be a stepping stone to a lucrative and satisfying career and to encourage more employers to participate in apprenticeship training.
Committee members were drawn from employers, trade unions, employer associations, sponsors and Government Departments. The New South Wales Governor, Lieutenant- General Sir John Northcott KCMG KCVO CB was the patron and the Minister for Labour and Industry, The Honorary Abram Landa MLA presided.

The committee launched Apprenticeship Week, a series of events that included a march through the streets of Sydney by apprentices and a careers exhibition to raise the awareness of trade training, with a focus on attracting school leavers to apprenticeships. Apprenticeship Week culminated in the formal presentation of awards. The Silver Medallion was awarded to the Apprentice of the Year and a Bronze Medallion was presented to the Best Apprentice in Each Trade.

The 60s

More than 10 years later, the challenges facing the vocational education and training sector were still present. Although delighted by a noticeable increase in pride in craftsmanship, the committee recognised the number of young people seeking to gain technical skills was still not sufficient to satisfy industry needs. In 1966 there was also a noted trend in apprentices combining trade skills with higher studies such as university degrees.

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The 70s

In the 1970’s the achievements of women were increasingly recognised. In 1972 the second runner up in the Apprentice of the Year Award, Christine Griffin, an apprentice mechanical optician, was recognised as “the first girl ever in a hitherto male oriented craft to be among the first three place getters” and in 1978 Virginia Lee, an apprentice in Jewellery (Mounting) became the first ever girl to be awarded what was by then the Gold Medal, for Apprentice of the Year.

Apprenticeship commissioner Jim Lucey with 1976 Apprentice of the Year Warwick Marshall

The 80s

Vocational training continued to play a significant role in the development of NSW throughout the 1980s. In 1988 Sydney hosted the International Work Skills Olympics involving competitors from 19 countries. Australia finished 3rd overall with 4 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze medals.

In his foreword to the 1988 presentation of Awards for Craftsmanship, the then Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, noted the Work Skills Olympics highlighted a need to regularly review the training arrangements being provided by industry and technical colleges. The search for excellence in VET assumed national prominence. Winners now competed against the best from all states and territories for recognition as the Australian Apprentice of the Year.

Left to right:
The Hon P.D. Mills MP, Minister for Industrial Relations, Pasquale Pierro, NSW Governor Air Marshall Sir James Rowland AC KBE DFC AFC, Donna Booby and Bruce Boorer

The 90s

By 1991, the event had become known as the NSW Industrial and Commercial Training Awards, incorporating the NSW Apprentice of the Year and the NSW Trainee of the Year. The sector continued to strive to improve the skill levels of the workforce and the training process. Reformation of the sector included competency based training, national recognition of skills and increased links between TAFE, schools, industry and private training providers of vocational education and training.

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2000 and beyond

The first decade of the 21st century saw the NSW vocational education and training sector continue to address the challenges of global economies and the breath-taking speed of technological advances. The awards became known as the NSW Training Awards to reflect the role and achievements of trainers and learners from a variety of non-traditional vocational education and training pathways including School-Based Awards.

In 2010, we marked 55 years celebrating excellence in vocational education training in NSW. We thank His Excellency, Lieutenant General, Sir John Northcott and the organising committee who introduced the awards all those years ago. We are certain they would be greatly impressed by the achievements of those who continue to choose vocational education and training.

The future of vocational education and training in NSW is bright. We now have eleven regional committees throughout NSW who work hard to promote Vocational Education and Training and conduct local events showcasing the remarkable skills and achievements in our community. Our state winners continue to excel in the national arena with NSW winning the award for the National title of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student for three consecutive years. We are confident that the people of NSW will continue to show the ‘pride in craftsmanship’ that has become the hallmark of our state.

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NSW Training Awards
NSW Department of Industry
Level 12, 1 Oxford St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(PO Box 960, Darlinghurst NSW 1300)


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Page last updated: 27 June 2016