Bert Evans scholarship supports apprentices’ dreams

Sophie Madigan with her boss, Madonna Bannerman, at Two Tails winery.


100 apprentices across NSW have been awarded a Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarship worth a total of $1.5 million, funded by the NSW Government.

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh has congratulated the three local scholarship recipients; Leigh Gimson, Melissa Jalaudin and Sophie Madigan.

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“The annual scholarships, worth $15,000 over three years, support apprentices who are experiencing financial or personal hardship, demonstrate a high aptitude for vocational education and training, and show a commitment to their training,” said Mr Singh.

News Of The Area spoke with the recipients.

Sophie, 21, who lives in Coffs Harbour, said, “I’m currently doing my Certification III in commercial cookery first year.

“My TAFE teacher selected me to put forward onto the scholarship.

“This financial award has helped me with my car maintenance so I can get to and from work, as well as helping me to move out of home in the future.

“I started out as a kitchen hand at Two Tails winery where I was then given my apprenticeship.

“I’ve always had an interest in cooking and flavours and always been artistic and in my career.

“I get to use my creativity and especially love making intricate desserts and playing with colours, fresh flowers and herbs.

“I want to make art on a plate.

“My life has changed a lot since I started this job, and definitely for the better.

“I have an amazing boss at Two Tails – Madonna Bannerman – and a great head chef Kevin.

“In the future I would love to be a hatted chef, working in high class restaurants around the world.”

Leigh is 33 and lives in Woolgoolga.

“I’m doing Cert III Refrigeration and Air-conditioning.

“As someone who has struggled with reading and writing all my life, this will enable me to acquire equipment and tutoring to get through the theory in this apprenticeship.

“This takes a huge amount of stress out of completing my trade.

“I completed my apprenticeship as a mechanical plumber in Melbourne as a teenager.

“I was always intrigued by refrigeration work and when I moved to New Zealand, I landed myself a job in air conditioning and refrigeration.

“I got to spend a lot of time working with refrigeration systems with a really switched-on and supportive team.

“When I returned to Australia, I was super keen to learn more and get qualified in the trade.

“When I settled in the area I was lucky to have Chris at Grafton Air sign me straight up to an apprenticeship.

“Both Grafton Air and Grafton TAFE have been super supportive.

“My dream?…to be in an industry where I still enjoy going to work every day.”

Melissa, 29, is French and living in Moonee Beach.

“I work as an apprentice chef for a high-end catering company called French Connect Food in Coffs Harbour.

“My Head Chef, Loic Prouin found the scholarship and said I should apply.

“Getting this scholarship will help me and my family.

“I have a little girl with severe autism which can make life difficult.

“I have been working in hospitality on and off for 13 years and started with making coffee in a cafe at the age of 16.

“In France, where I come from, feeding people is the way to care for them.

“I think in cooking you can never stop learning.

“I hope in the future to have my own catering business in Coffs Harbour making event cakes.”




Melissa Jalaudin presents her sundried tomato and creamy pesto with some handmade gnocchi, parmesan crisp and pine nuts.

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