Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year Award

The Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year Award is presented to an individual who is undertaking a traineeship and has been outstanding in all aspects of their training.

While Sandra Van Der Gaag was working as an Australian Fisheries Officer in the Northern Territory (and completing her degree in engineering) she saw firsthand the work of the oil and gas industry and decided that would be her next career move. It was a big challenge to start over again in a new career, in a new location, and Sandra admits that she had to muster her courage.

Not only did the move pay off career-wise, Sandra’s achievements earned her the Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year Award at the 2015 Australian Training Awards.

“I stepped outside my comfort zone to make this move and you need to have self-belief when you do that. For me the award is an affirmation of that self-belief and it’s great that my efforts have been recognised.”

Sandra chose a qualification in process plant operations as a stepping stone into the type of work she wanted to do, so she undertook a two year traineeship with Apprenticeships Australia.

“The traineeship was great – I received extensive practical experience along with support when I needed it.”

She now has a permanent position at Woodside as a process plant operator and plays a daily, vital role in ensuring the safety and efficient operation of the plant.

“My experience shows that VET can often offer the best pathway to the career you’re after. I’m working in a very responsible, professional capacity in a job I love.”

Sandra says she loves talking to other people about her experience.

“I love opening people’s eyes to the number of pathways that are possible if you look for them. It’s great when you think you’ve inspired someone else to step outside their comfort zone and have a go.”

Sandra thinks that the Australian Training Awards is inspirational as a celebration of the dynamic people in the VET system who are making important contributions to society.