A former Smith’s Hill High School student who once dreamed of joining the Air Force is flying high after being named a Student of the Year at the TAFE NSW Excellence Awards.
Ben Maxwell, 22, recently completed his mechanical trade apprenticeship with HVTC and BlueScope Steel in Wollongong.
When his Air Force career didn’t progress, Ben briefly thought of becoming a history teacher – until he saw a BlueScope advertisement for mechanical apprentices.
Not only did Ben complete a Certificate III course in Engineering Trade and a Certificate IV in Mechanical Engineering, he followed that up with a Diploma of Engineering Technical while working as a mechanical trade apprentice with HVTC at BlueScope.
He capped off his study with TAFE NSW’s Innovative Manufacturing, Robotics and Science Student of the Year award.
TAFE teacher Sandra Petersen nominated Ben for the Student of the Year award and said he had made an important contribution throughout his studies.
“Engineering is about teamwork and project work and Ben not only did extremely well for himself, but he also raised the level of the whole group, helping the engineering community by sharing his knowledge with his fellow students,” she said.
Not only has Ben excelled in his chosen career, he is now aiming for a leadership role, hopefully with BlueScope.
“At my graduation, my principal said always be a lifelong learner and that resonated with me,” Ben said.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and trying new stuff, so when I got that opportunity with my apprenticeship to further myself, I thought, why not?”
Ben admits juggling work and study was “super challenging”, but the rewards at the end were worth it. He credits his strong support network of his family, girlfriend and friends with helping him through.
“Working and studying was a challenge when I first started my apprenticeship, but I love my job and I’m lucky to work with a terrific employer with some really great people,” he said.
“My teachers at TAFE were all very accommodating, they understood that I was working full-time so that had a lot to do with it, and also the guys at work were really great if I needed extra time.
“Winning the Student of the Year award was a shock, but it reflects a great learning experience at TAFE NSW and I’m hoping that it will help advance my career and gain more knowledge and experience.”
Ben has plans for further study but is yet to decide if it will be at TAFE or university.
BlueScope hosts both mechanical and electrical apprentices each year providing the environment for on-the-job training while supporting them through their studies.
BlueScope’s Organisational Development Business Partner Andrew Stirling said the company viewed the arrangement as an entry into a career path into trades, technical, and leadership roles within BlueScope.
“We are thrilled for Ben to receive this award as he has always impressed his supervisors with his skills, determination and tenacity throughout his apprenticeship,” he said.
“We look forward to working with Ben and watching him grow and develop in his career.”