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TAFE NSW graduate sees rapid career progression in fabrication - as women in engineering are celebrated

TAFE NSW Kempsey

TAFE NSW graduate sees rapid career progression in fabrication - as women in engineering are celebrated

The first female apprentice to graduate with a Certificate III in Engineering from TAFE NSW Kempsey is encouraging more women to train in the industry, as Women in Engineering Day celebrates the contribution female engineers make to the profession.

Tori McCombe began at Bennetts Steel as a TAFE-Delivered Vocational Education and Training (TVET) student from completing work placement while at Westport Secondary College. She went on to become an apprentice with the company and is now the Head of Fabrication.

International Women in Engineering Day is celebrated on 23 June and encourages more young women to pursue a career in the field of engineering. It also highlights the amazing and innovative career opportunities engineering can offer.

Research conducted by Engineers Australia shows engineering has the lowest female representation of the STEM professions, with just 16% of Australian engineering graduates and 13% of the Australian engineering workforce female.

Tori said the Certificate III in Engineering is a great qualification, as the fabrication industry is diverse and there are many different roles you can work in.

“There is so much variety in what I am doing everyday and I usually get to work as part of a team, so I am always learning from those around me,” she said.

“My experience at TAFE NSW gave me well rounded training to understand all the different processes and ways of doing things. Sometimes the answer isn’t straight forward – and through my training I gained the problem-solving skills to find the best approach.”

General Manager of Bennetts Steel, Shiree Bennett, said Tori’s mature outlook and the skills she had learned through her training made her an attractive candidate to hire. 

“I am always a supporter of women, but I didn’t hire Tori because she was a female, I hired her because she had the right attitude and the right experience,” she said. 

“Because of the training she received at TAFE NSW, combined with her on the job experience, she had the practical skills we needed in our business. Her success moving into a senior role has been because of her ability to apply herself and the mentoring she has received.”

“We value our relationship with TAFE NSW as the apprentices that come through are always well trained, with a high level of knowledge.”

The Engineers Australia research also identified barriers around the perception of the engineering profession, which is seen by many as ‘male dominated and challenging.’ This is a key area that needs to be addressed, to drive greater female participation in engineering.

Tori said her experience in the industry has been incredibly positive, and she has been well supported by both her male and female mentors.

“Shiree has of course been a huge influence for me – while my predecessor in this role Ray Knox invested a huge amount of time and energy into encouraging me and passing on his knowledge,” she said.

“My TAFE NSW teacher Richard has also been a huge supporter. I can still call him and ask questions, if there’s a concept I need advice on.”

“I think it’s all about ensuring you surround yourself with the right people and train and work in a business that has a strong emphasis on positive workplace culture.”


Media contact: Lauren McAllister, Communications Specialist,, 02 7920 5000.