VERTO's Women in Trades program assists Zoe and inspires industry diversity

Demonstrating resilience and determination in the face of adversity, Yarrawonga’s Zoe Cooke utilised VERTO’s Women in Trades program to transition her versatile skill set.

VERTO's Women in Trades team assists apprentices of all backgrounds in overcoming challenges and reaching their full potential. Whether through mentorship, skill development programs, or networking opportunities, the team is dedicated to fostering a supportive environment for women pursuing careers in both traditional, non-traditional and male-dominated industries.

Facing the uncertainty of a pandemic-caused layoff from a travel agency role at Flight Centre, Ms Cooke turned to VERTO’s qualification expertise to enrol in, and subsequently complete a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at Club Mulwala.

After falling just two units short of completing a Certificate III in Travel because of pandemic-related disruptions, Ms Cooke worked diligently to balance her studies while caring for her two-year-old son, Riker, before submitting her completed apprenticeship paperwork 12 months ahead of schedule.

“Awaiting the birth of my child meant I couldn't commit full-time to Club Mulwala, however I loved my time there and was excited at the possibility of coming back. Being offered an apprenticeship with Club Mulwala I took that opportunity with both hands and strived to thrive,” she said.

“Club Mulwala has been one of the most supportive teams I’ve ever worked in, going above and beyond to accommodate my work-life balance of being a working mum.”

Beyond this achievement, Ms Cooke is also a co-founder of the Sarah Lloyd Scholarship Fund, which provides up to $2,000 for women undertaking non-traditional trades across NSW.

Ms Cooke is Sarah’s sister, and played a pivotal role in setting up the scholarship, which is presented to successful applicants on 16 July every year - Sarah’s birthday. 

“After the passing of my sister, we set up the Sarah Lloyd Scholarship Fund with the purpose of giving back to female apprentices across NSW in her honour and reflecting our family's passion for non-traditional female trade work,” Ms Cooke said.

“Chris from VERTO has been an incredible beacon of support for myself and an outstanding mentor to women in trades, becoming someone I always feel comfortable bouncing ideas off and who has my back in tackling any challenges.”

"I first connected with Zoe through a Facebook community dedicated to women in trades, where she was an active participant and keen to make sure women don’t feel isolated in industries that are often male-dominated. Through her hard work and achievements, she has been able to inspire other women following a similar path,” VERTO Women in Trades Mentor, Chris Durrant, said.

As well as offering Women in Trades support, VERTO proudly financially supports Tradeswomen Australia, as well as providing a number of scholarships through the Country Education Foundation for young women starting out in vocational education and training.

"Zoe's commitment exemplifies the resilience we seek to foster at VERTO,” CEO Ron Maxwell said.

“VERTO is committed to empowering women to access, participate and succeed in trades and encouraging greater female participation in trades will play a positive role in addressing the ongoing skills shortages issues being felt across the country.”

For more information about VERTO’s range of life-changing employment services, visit or phone 1300 487 386.



VERTO is a community owned, not-for-profit organisation delivering a range of apprenticeship, community support, employment and training services to assist individuals, employers and industries. We can be found in more than 65 locations across New South Wales. For more information, visit