TAFE SA students shine at the Riverland & Mallee Vocational Awards

Feb 20, 2023

TAFE SA lecturer Gary Webb and student Connor Ross

Apprentice chef Connor Ross enjoys the challenge of producing meals that look and taste great and says there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing empty plates return to the kitchen.

Connor, who works at the Barmera Hotel and studies at TAFE SA, has been named School-based Apprentice of the Year 2022 at the Riverland & Mallee Vocational Awards, recognised for his skills and commitment.

After scoring a casual job helping in the hotel kitchen, Connor (pictured with TAFE SA lecturer Gary Webb) was offered the opportunity to do a school-based cookery apprenticeship, combining work, classes at Berri Regional School and training at TAFE SA.

“I love cooking and finding new recipes to work with like the seafood laksa I’m doing this week, I enjoy the research and planning,” he says.

“I work in the gourmet section of the kitchen and I like the degree of difficulty involved.

“It gives me satisfaction when I get the dish looking right and it feels great when the plate comes back empty.”

Connor says he also enjoys attending classes at TAFE SA’s Berri Campus learning new skills and getting advice.

“My lecturer Gary (Webb) is great and has become my role model,” he says.

Connor completed high school in 2022 and is now focused on continuing his apprenticeship. In the future he hopes to start his own business operating a food truck, so he can talk to his customers as well as cook for them.


Like Connor, Charlotte Zimmermann spent 2022 juggling schoolwork, TAFE SA study and on-the-job training at the Riverland Veterinary Clinic.

The Loxton High School graduate has been named School-based Trainee of the Year 2022 at the Riverland & Mallee Vocational Awards.

“The award means a lot to me,” says Charlotte, who was celebrated for her work ethic and passion for animal welfare.

“It made me step back and see that I’ve accomplished a lot and I can see how much I’ve developed as an individual.”

After a work experience placement in Year 10, Charlotte was offered a part-time job at the Riverland Veterinary Clinic and the chance to undertake a traineeship through her senior school years.

As a trainee she also completed a Certificate III in Companion Animal Service, studying online and taking part in practical workshops at TAFE SA’s Gilles Plains Campus.

“Caring for animals has always been an area of interest and working at the vet clinic is rewarding,” she says.

 “If an animal comes in unwell, I can help and do my best to make sure they get the care they need.”

Charlotte is embarking on a new traineeship this year, combining work at the vet clinic with study at TAFE SA to complete a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing over the next three years.

“Becoming a vet nurse is the end goal. I’ve thought about studying to be a vet but I’m going to do this first and see if I want to take that next step,” she says.

Congratulations to the following TAFE SA students who received awards at the Riverland & Mallee Vocational Awards:

Connor Ross – Winner School-Based Apprentice

Certificate III in Commercial Cookery

Shelly Priest – Runner-up School-Based Apprentice

Certificate III Painting and Decorating

Charlotte Zimmermann – Winner School-Based Trainee

Certificate III in Companion Animal Services

Megan Bannear – Runner-up Trainee

Certificate III in Dental Assisting

Jordon Burgess – Winner of the Electrical Industry Award

Certificate III Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

Ty Glassey – Winner of the Automotive Industry Awards

Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

James Bannear – Winner of the Engineering Industry Award

Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade

Brooke Wilksch – Winner of the Hairdressing Industry Award

Certificate III in Hairdressing