As COVID-19 restrictions took hold last year, many hairdressing students in Ruby Harpley's course pulled out.
With the uncertainty ahead and little-to-no opportunities for workplace training, things were looking grim.
"I look where I am now, compared to where I was 12 months ago - I had been let go due to COVID," Ms Harpley said.
"I was pretty much going into my third year getting ready to qualify, and then I had no job.
"A lot of apprentices didn't continue to do hairdressing because of COVID."
But the 18-year-old was determined to obtain her certificate three and one year later, is now close to becoming qualified at Do My Hair in Wodonga.
"I hounded Rachael (Simmons, manager) for so long to give me a job - I'd done education with her before and I knew she was the kind of boss to get me where I wanted to go," Ms Harpley said.
"I did my certificate two at school, as salon assistant, and I've got Aunties who are hairdressers - it's always interested me.
"When I started my apprenticeship, I went to Albury TAFE.
"There are other specialised beauty services here, which I never in a million years thought I would be doing.
"I found myself specialising in a lot of retail and customer service."
Ms Harpley was recognised as runner-up in Apprentice of the Year for her course.
Ms Simmons said Ms Harpley deserved the recognition.
"She came to me and did hound me for a job - I couldn't help but give her a job, she was so proactive and positive," she said.
"She deserves all the credit - her skill level has exponentially increased and her customer care level was outstanding."
Ms Harpley said after remote learning with TAFE and seeing many of her friends lose work, she was grateful to be in her position.
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"I was out of work for about four weeks, which was really hard, and I was just lucky I was still living at home," she said.
"I had so much support from the team here.
"I'm really proud to work at this salon."
With state and federal government funding to support the economy, TAFE NSW has put on fee-free and low cost courses in hairdressing, healthcare, early childhood, community services, food sciences, agriculture and horticulture.
The NSW Government committed close to $160 million to match the Australian Government's JobTrainer fund in 2020, with young people and the unemployed being among those eligible.
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