Inverell's Lachlan Butler has been named the NSW Apprentice of the Year.
The metal fabricator, who works for BOSS Engineering, said he was shocked to receive the award.
"When they called my name, I was almost speechless, and anyone knows me, knows that's rare," he said.
Mr Butler was a finalist alongside three electricians, a chef and machinist to take the honours. "Hearing the work they do and all the stuff they take on was just amazing. I thought I had no chance against these top-notch people."
But it was less of a surprise for Mr Butler's employers who know what a valuable colleague they have.
Flourishing in his apprenticeship, Mr Butler quickly made himself invaluable, proving to be a dexterous team leader able to easily switch from one speciality to the next, all while managing complex family matters.
Having grown up on a farm at Bingara, Mr Butler discovered a natural affinity for metal work and a love of working with his hands. His loyalty and strong work ethic shone last year when his father was shockingly diagnosed with guillain barre syndrome, essentially meaning his nervous system shut down, causing paralysis.
While his father was in hospital, Mr Butler was working 60-hour weeks, playing footy and working on the farm at the weekend.
"It was relentless for a few months but it was all worth it in the end, and Dad's well again now," he said.
Boss HR officer, Rosie Bloch, said Mr Butler was a valuable member and "super keen" to jump into any area where needed to assist his colleagues.
"Boss was having a down period through the drought and when things picked up really quickly, we realised we were lacking human resources in a lot of areas. Lachie was the person who was doing eight hours welding, then he'd do four hours pressing or he'd jump in and do four hours sandblasting," she said.
"It's just really rare in kids these days to notice where an area is lacking and put their hand up to say, 'I can jump in there and help' but a lot of times Lachie's work ethic got us out of those big bottlenecks."
Mr Butler follows in the footsteps of his bosses who all started as apprentices and are now successful businessmen.
"They are a great inspiration," Mrs Bloch said, who added, it took a 'village' to complete an apprenticeship.
"There are so many people involved from the state training organisation who put on the awards, to the apprenticeship provider, training organisation, the employer, the apprentice and their support network. And then other training organisations that up-skill everyone along the way. It's a massive network that comes together," Mrs Bloch said.
"And we're incredibly grateful that we could be there to support Lachie," she said.
A passionate advocate for addressing the skills shortage in rural Australia, Mr Butler is keen to encourage others to pursue a trade career through VET.
"Skills training in Australia is extremely important. Our country's future is dependent on people like myself who have gone through an apprenticeship," he said.
"I received entry into uni after my HSC but stuck with the idea of an apprenticeship. I liked the thought of getting paid and learning on-site, and four years later being certified.
"I strongly believe in doing something you love. If you love your job, you're really not working. You can't beat the training we receive out here and at the end you've got a certificate of competency to take that job and your skills anywhere."
Mr Butler will soon join Mrs Bloch on school visits to discuss his experience and explain the opportunities an apprenticeship can offer to senior high school students.
"Experiencing a national trade skills shortage we do this to try and bridge that gap, so it's important to have people like Lachie come along and speak about their journey," Mrs Bloch said.
"We're very proud and think he will be a great ambassador for apprenticeships and traineeships, and also for BOSS Engineering as a company."
Mr Butler has now qualified for the national awards which will be held in November.
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