2012 has proven a successful year for Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) at the Australian Training Awards, with students taking out the two top awards.

At the national awards ceremony held in November at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, CIT hairdresser Sara Burke, of La Bimbi Hair in Belconnen, was awarded Australian Apprentice of the Year. She was the first Canberra hairdresser to win the award.

Nursing student Gloria Davidson, who also trained at CIT, won Australian Vocational Student of the Year.

Burke and Davidson both attributed their success in part to their vocational education training.

For Burke, hairdressing was a brave career choice. The bright student said she felt some pressure to go to university and follow a more traditional academic path.

"It was a tough decision to go against the grain of what my friends, family and society believe to be an acceptable career path, but I am so glad I did," Burke said.

"I have loved every second of my apprenticeship and have not looked back since."

She said the experience of a vocational education taught her more than she expected.

"Choosing an apprenticeship gave me a holistic approach to learning, integrating the traditional learning with the competition exposure and professional development opportunities," she said.

Gloria Davidson left a lucrative career to return to study as a mature aged student, following her dream of becoming a nurse.

She enrolled in nursing at university before changing her path and thriving at CIT. She has made numerous contributions to health and mental health in the ACT.

"I found I suited the TAFE environment and loved how practical training was incorporated," she said.

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch said the results highlighted the high calibre of the ACT's trainees and apprentices.

''It is a great testament to the quality of the training they receive in the ACT from the providers here, especially from CIT,'' she said.

■ For more information, visit www.cit.edu.au