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Awards celebrate VET success stories.

2024 Zeal Futures Excellence Awards

Celebrating success stories .

Some of the state's best apprentices, trainees, students and businesses were recognised at the 2024 Zeal Futures Excellence Awards, which were announced in Newcastle last Friday night.

Sharon Smith, CEO of Zeal Futures, said this year’s event was particularly exciting, as it was the first Excellence Awards event under the organisation’s new brand, Zeal Futures.

“Two weeks ago, we officially rebranded from HVTC Group to Zeal Futures; one unified brand and name to propel our organisation forward,” Ms Smith said.

“Our organisation has a long and proud history of creating success stories, since our inception nearly 43 years ago. In that time, we have created learning and employment opportunities for more than 38,000 people across hundreds of vocations and industries, and that number continues to grow as we do.

“The Excellence Awards allow us to acknowledge the achievements of our apprentices and trainees, students, staff, and host employers, and recognise their valuable contributions to vocational education and training.”

For the second year running, an Origin Energy employee has taken out the Apprentice of the Year Award. Jan Kubecka completed a Mechanical Engineering apprenticeship, having already completed a Light Vehicle apprenticeship and deciding to further his studies.

Throughout his apprenticeship Jan was accepted into the Today’s Skills Tomorrow’s Leaders program and the Zeal Futures Emerging Leaders Program, which he successfully completed, gaining a statement of attainment in Leadership & Management.

BlueScope was named Overall Host Employer of the Year in recognition of their commitment to skills training and investment in the community. For more than 15 years, BlueScope has partnered with Zeal Futures to deliver an apprenticeship program at the Port Kembla steelworks.

During this time, almost 500 apprentices have kickstarted their careers at BlueScope, with over 100 placements currently engaged in the Illawarra region. Of the current trade cohort, 33% are women, reflecting BlueScope’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in their workforce planning.

Sydney's Jake Roeder was presented the 2024 Milton Morris Encouragement Award in honour of the late Zeal Futures Founding Chairman and Patron, The Hon. Milton Morris AO.

Jake commenced a Sports Turf Management apprenticeship with Lynwood Country Club in 2022 after completing casual work experience in the field. Despite being just 15 years old when he started his apprenticeship, Jake always got himself to work and never missed a day, consistently being the first to arrive and the last to leave.

“I’d like to congratulate Jan, BlueScope, Jake, and all of our winners and finalists,” Ms Smith added.

“Our purpose and passion are to help everyone thrive. We help businesses grow by sourcing, employing, and managing quality apprentices and trainees.

“We also support people through all phases of their learning journeys, empowering individuals, including apprentices, trainees, students, and our partners, to achieve their goals and realize their full potential. At Zeal Futures, we create success stories.”

Zeal Futures award winners

  • Apprentice of the Year: Jan Kubecka (hosted by Origin Energy – Eraring)
  • Apprentice of the Year – Highly Commended: Luke Hren (hosted by Manildra Energy)
  • Trainee of the Year: Sarkees Yousif (hosted by NSW Premier’s Department)
  • Trainee of the Year – Highly Commended: Mackenzi Exton (hosted by Sutherland Shire Council)
  • Student of the Year: Kieran Moss (hosted by Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group)
  • Student of the Year – Highly Commended: Ashlee Pizzingrilli (Diploma of Beauty Therapy).
  • Student of the Year – Highly Commended: Ella Peters (Certificate III Business)
  • Woman in Non-Traditional Trade Apprentice/Trainee of the Year: Rachael Pearson (hosted by South32)
  • School-based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year: Emma-Jane Binder (hosted by the Department of Planning & Environment (NSW Parks & Wildlife Service)
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Apprentice/Trainee of the Year: Emily Towney
  • Adversity Champion: Tanya Byrne (hosted by Shoalhaven City Council)
  • Small Host Employer of the Year: Borcat Trailers
  • Large Host Employer of the Year: Centennial
  • Host Employer Safety Award: Peabody
  • Host Employer Innovation Award: NSW Department of Planning & Environment
  • Overall Host Employer of the Year: BlueScope
  • Milton Morris Encouragement Award: Jake Roeder (hosted by Lynwood Country Club)
  • Zeal Futures Employee of the Year: Chelsea Ellul (Compliance and Quality Team Leader).