August 7th, 2017

National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology. Held each year in August, the week features more than 1000 events around the country. Originally established in 1997, National Science Week provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Australian scientists to the world of knowledge and aims to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public. There has never been a better time for Australians to think about careers within the STEM sector (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with the celebration of both National Science Week and the lead up to Australia’s pinnacle week for celebrating vocational education and training (VET), National Skills Week.

In 2016, The Guardian noted that women make up less than one-fifth of Australians qualified in science, technology, engineering and maths, with the findings of a new report by the Office of the Chief Scientist, showing only 16% of the 2.3 million STEM-qualified Australians are female, with engineering showing the largest gender gap.

This week marks the 20-day countdown to National Skills Week, a week in which we celebrate the achievements of vocational learners across the country.  Careers that fall into the STEM sectors, will promoted during this annual week, showcasing the career success of individuals in this sector, particularly those who are female.  It is imperative we encourage more students into these sectors,” says Kirstin Casey, General Manger at SkillsOne.

Melinda Jeffrey (nee Lethbridge), national VET Alumni member, Australian Apprenticeships Ambassador and 2014 Australian Training Award’s Apprentice of the Year always had a fascination with how things worked and has a natural skill and passion for hands-on work.

I started Year 12 aiming for a scholarship in mechatronics and took up a very academic study load, but I realised I needed a balance of practical work as well as theoretical challenges,” said Melinda.

After spending a week doing work experience at Hargo Engineering, Melinda decided that an Australian Apprenticeship in fitting and machining was a good balance between theoretical and practical learning.

I didn’t consider a trade until half way through my VCE when I realised hands-on training suited me better than tertiary education, and I saw a job there that would excite me day in and day out,” said Melinda.

Melinda enrolled in a Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade at Swinburne University of Technology and commenced her apprenticeship at Hargo Engineering the day after completing her school exams and has not looked back since.

Not only a qualified fitter and turner, Melinda has won gold medals for Fitting and Machining at WorldSkills Australia’s Melbourne Region competition in 2013 and 2014, competed at the 2014 WorldSkills Australia National Competition and most recently won gold in the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition.  Additionally, she received Swinburne’s Best in First Year and Best in Third Year awards over the course of her studies.

Undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship was a really positive experience,” she said.

“The self-paced learning built into the training allowed me to move quickly through content that came easily to me, and take the time to fully understand concepts that I struggled with.  An Australian Apprenticeship is also an awesome opportunity to learn and earn,” said Melinda.

Passionate in promoting education and career development, Melinda tutors primary and secondary students, as well as refugees from Burma.

Ultimately, Melinda wants to contribute to the quality of Australian Apprenticeships by partnering more effectively with off-the-job training and continue learning and increasing her skills in cutting edge machining techniques.

For further information on Melinda’s story, or other inspiring career stories from the Australian Training Awards, VET Alumni Program or the Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors program, visit the Australian Training Awards website.

SkillsOne will be showcasing VET qualifications during National Skills Week from 28 August to 3 September 2017. National Skills Week is Australia’s primary week to acknowledge vocational achievements and celebrate the endless opportunities available through VET.

To organise an event, or take part in the many events that can be found across the country, visit the National Skills Week website.

For more information please contact: Kirstin Casey (General Manager at SkillsOne)

Mobile: 0420 652 558 Email:

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