Gemma Hartwig

Gemma Hartwig

No spanner in the works for Gemma

Certificate III in Engineering - Mechanical Trade (Maintenance - Diesel Fitting)

Ever since she was a little girl, Gemma Hartwig was happiest with a spanner in hand, tinkering on machinery at the family farm in Dalby, Queensland. So when the opportunity arose to do an Australian School-based Apprenticeship (ASbA) in diesel fitting, Gemma jumped at it. 

‘I wanted to leave school in Year 10, but was offered an apprenticeship with Ostwald Bros, a local construction company,’ says Gemma. ‘It enabled me to combine the best of all worlds—do something I loved, get a head start on a qualification and finish school.’

Even though diesel fitting is a traditionally male-dominated industry, it was a natural fit for Gemma given that her uncle, grandfather and great grandfather all completed mechanical trades.

‘In Year 12, I already had my career sorted. Many of my friends were wrestling with career decisions and agonising over university preferences,’ remembers Gemma. ‘My apprenticeship with Ostwald cemented what I wanted and motivated me to complete school.’

Gemma graduated with a Certificate III in Engineering—Mechanical Trade (Maintenance—Diesel Fitter) after completing an Australian Apprenticeship. She’s never looked back and won the 2017 Australian Apprentice of the Year Award at the Australian Training Awards.

After Otswald, Gemma worked for another company in small components work. Next up was travelling to Canada armed with a two-year working visa, to concentrate on farm machinery and travel.

‘The beauty of completing an apprenticeship is that I can work practically anywhere,’ says Gemma. ‘I can transfer my skills to many types of machinery.’

Gemma hopes her story will inspire others to stay in school and consider an apprenticeship pathway. She especially wants to inspire women to pursue careers in male-dominated industries.

As an Australian VET Alumni member, Gemma is a passionate advocate for vocational education and training. ‘It’s as valid as a uni degree and anyone who believes otherwise is behind in their thinking. You gain more practical qualifications through VET, earning while learning,’ says Gemma. ‘And VET doesn’t close you off from uni or even a second qualification.’

‘I have great memories of TAFE. It was a great start to my career,’ says Gemma. ‘Today, I make really good money, own my own house, have started a business and funded a trip to Canada. My message to anyone thinking about a career, is to consider an apprenticeship—it may be the best thing you’ll ever do.’

To find out more about how you can gain real skills for a real career through a VET qualification, visit