The 2019 ACT Apprentice of the Year James White has long held a passion for cutting, shaping and building with his hands.
“I was always a tinkerer as a kid. I made coffee tables and bedside tables and things for fun,” he tells Canberra Weekly.
“That progressed into radio controlled planes; I was eight years old when I made my first one.
“It was something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and, yeah, I guess I’ve just taken it to the next level by doing it as a trade,” Mr White smiles.
After finishing secondary school in 2009, he completed a Diploma of Leadership Management and spent five years pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering at ANU while working on campus as a member of the maintenance staff.
He says his decision to take up a carpentry apprenticeship was shaped by the fact he found hands-on work more rewarding than the theory-based career path of engineering.
“Tertiary education is fantastic, but Australia needs tradespeople, and the CIT’s competent, not yet competent system, means the people who need a bit of extra help will get it.
“The hands-on, practical nature of how CIT is taught works very well, and it produces some really good tradespeople.
“There are people I did my course with, who if I was working for myself, I’d be looking to hire straight away.”
Mr White says it feels outstanding to be recognised for the amount of work he’s put into his vocational education training.
“There’s a lot of hard work going into completing an apprenticeship; this is a really good way to reward the hard work I’ve put in.”
He says the skills he’s learned through his apprenticeship have provided the foundation for a rewarding career.
“I’ll do a day’s work and I’ll have built a deck or a pergola or something, you look back and go ‘oh yeah, that’s really nice work’.
“The client’s really happy, or I’m really happy if I’ve done it at my place … it’s very fulfilling.”
Mr White now progresses to the Australian Training Awards, to be held in Brisbane on 21 November.