Lady tradie smashing blue-collar ceiling

Nicole Paxman with her boss Dean Hefren. Picture: Harrison Vesey

It has been a roller coaster 12 months for Smartfix Auto Electrics apprentice Nicole Paxman.

Since receiving the NSW State Training Services (STS) Bert Evans apprentice scholarship last November, Nicole was recently nominated for Riverina Apprentice of the Year.

That honour last night went to Lavington Hairdressing apprentice Audrey Bowman, but the Riverina Training Awards presentation evening held a final surprise for Nicole.

STS Riverina manager Garry Whittaker took to the stage to announce Nicole has been nominated as a state finalist for the woman in a non-traditional role award.

“I just started crying, it was overwhelming,” Nicole said.

“I never thought I would get this far.”

Nicole’s employer and TAFE teacher Dean Hefren says the nomination was a surprise even to him.

“You should have seen Nicole’s face when the announcement was made,” he said.

“It’s quite an honour and I’m very pleased for her.

“It was a good, fun night and I was very proud to see her up there.”

Nicole’s son Dennis Wheatley joined mum on the stage when she was interviewed prior to the award presentation.

Nicole said one of the highlights of the evening was the congratulations and feedback she received not just from friends, but also from complete strangers.

“One lady said afterwards that I really inspired her,” Nicole said.

“She said she could see how devoted I am as a mother and it really moved her, and that just blew me away.”

Among Nicole’s supporters in the audience was Lois Perceval, the mother of her late partner Rodney.

It was Rodney’s tragic death in 2010 that inspired Nicole to take what he had taught her about automotive work and pursue it professionally.

“Rodney would be proud,” Lois said.

Nicole will now head to Sydney in September for the NSW Training Awards presentation evening.

She is hoping her mother Yvonne Giblett, who lives on the Central Coast, will be able to attend- although she hasn’t had a chance to share the good news with her yet

“Mum wouldn’t know how to change a tyre,” Nicole laughed.

“She is obviously very proud of me, she told me to go get ‘em.”

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