Recently it came to my attention that there are only four female apprentice bricklayers currently in training in Australia.
Four! Nationwide! Wow.
Whilst I knew the numbers would be low I was shocked to hear that it was that low. Admittedly, there are also another six female bricklayers who have completed their training in recent years.
Which raises the question, or questions, as to why so few females are taking on bricklaying?
One of my first blogs was how women can become bricklayers. I am proof that a female can. As I said then, construction was not an option or even discussed when I was at school. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC QLD/NT) Education & Mentoring Committee, just like ABBTF’s Become a Bricklayer program goes into schools conducting Step Out Programs and Try a Trade Day’s, we sow the seed to find our next generation of tradespeople. NAWIC especially sows the seed that a trade background is a viable choice for women and I’m a firm believer the pros outweigh the cons as a tradesperson.
Suzie Walsh is a really interesting example of a woman currently doing her bricklaying apprenticeship in her husband’s business in the ACT and a great believer that women should give it a go. She’d been labouring in the business and learning the ropes for some time on site and had come to bricklaying late, after other careers, at 45 but is thriving on the apprenticeship, especially the offsite training at MBA Canberra, with trainer Brian Lawrence. She’s able to bring her life experience to class as well as back in the business where she’s learned how to do the work well, within her physical capabilities. Her story is here.
Large commercial companies are embracing female tradespeople on their sites - some have quite large numbers. So why have subcontractors for residential builders snubbed even the concept of women on site? I drive around residential construction areas and finding women out there is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Are we still living in the dark ages? Are women wanting to become a bricklayer but are worn down by the age old ‘you can’t do it because you’re a girl’ from family or friends? Or perhaps the support is there from family and friends but employers are not hiring because they are girls? Whilst no one is going to put their hand up to actually say it, discrimination laws, I believe may be a big part of it. Perhaps employer’s partners feel insecure – I’ve certainly come across this in the past.
Or maybe it’s simply that it’s just a sign of the times within the industry – residential construction is down therefore fewer apprenticeships are available?
Maybe it’s a combination of all these reasons. Perhaps it’s none of these reasons and something else entirely. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Surely as an industry we want to grow construction into the future and what better way to do that than to accept men and women as tradespeople.
Stacey Rimene General Manager
I spent this afternoon catching up with one of FCTA – Building Careers recently completed apprentices, Jay Gerardis. Jay is 21 and has just finished his bricklaying apprenticeship and completing the training required to apply for his builders licence. In Jays words, the best reasons to become a bricklayer are ‘being able to work the hours you want, be outside, not stuck in an office’ That’s when Jay looks at me in front of my computer and adds in ‘no offence’.
Jay won the HIA Bricklaying Apprentice of the Year award in 2010, 2011 & 2012. This year he has been nominated in the SA Training Awards, for Apprentice of the Year. Jay got in to bricklaying after completing a week’s work experience. “You have to try it first, I was even thinking of doing tiling, but once I tried bricklaying I made my mind up. With the other trades you’re either stuck inside all day, or like carpenters, most the time people can’t see your work”. When I ask Jay about changes in the industry he talks about his concern about the possible price increases associated with the carbon tax and ‘green’ building, versus the benefits of building greener homes. “There’s definitely a move to these new 5 star energy efficient homes. I’ve worked on a few of them, and they are a bit more expensive but you have to think about all the money you’re going to save over the years, it’s worth it”.
The biggest shock for Jay once completing his apprenticeship was finding out about all the tax and financial issues during the training for his builders licence, “I was talking to this guy and saying, do you know you can claim all these things on your tax, and the guy had no idea, I just said, you’ve got to do the training!” Jay is currently working on a stone fronted house in the Adelaide Hills, “it’s a tough site, it’s like building on the side of a mountain, but it’s going to look great. You don’t mind the tougher sites when you work out how much you can earn by putting in the extra effort. I’ve built with Hebel, stone, block and brick, there’s lots of different ways to build. At the moment I’m working on a classic style house, there’s a trend getting back to that look, and red brick homes”. Jay is planning to hire his own apprentice once his business is up and running, “As an apprentice you think, how does the boss want it done, but then when you go to do it, you end up mixing what your boss has taught you with what you learn at trade school, that’s what’s best about it. I’m definitely hiring an apprentice, it was the best thing that happened to me”.
Trisch Baff, Marketing & Project Manager,
FCTA – Building Careers
It’s often said in the bricklaying industry that an apprenticeship in bricklaying provides a ‘powerful foundation’ for further developing a career in building and construction in Australia. This was never as true as in Western Australia with our tradition of using double clay brick. The bricklayer here has the responsibility of ensuring that the building is strong enough to support the whole structure – which is critically important for all trades that follow working at the site.
The introduction of the 2cs step down slab following the Second World War, was highly suited for the Perth coastal sandy plain; it enabled builders to utilise clay bricks both externally and internally, a method tried and tested in Europe. Bricklayers soon became very important to the building process given that they became responsible for the set-out of the building.
In the 1970’s, brick companies further raised consumer interest in double clay brick by running television advertising campaigns highlighting the benefits. This further stimulated brick sales and double clay brick became common place.
Bricklayers require a sound knowledge of building concepts, plan-reading capability and the ability to identify and overcome issues relating to the set-out. For example:
- If a bricklayer is 10mm out on a window reveal, the window simply will not fit.
- If a bricklayer gets the brickwork out of plum the roof may not fit on properly which can be further complicated given fact that more consumers are opting for metal roof products.
- If a bricklayer's walls are crooked the plasterer will have to make costly corrections.
- He also sets-out, applies the damp proof, and installs windows, lintels, doors, tie down straps and wall ties.
Put simply the structural integrity of the building relies on the bricklayer to do his job properly and to ensure that it complies with national codes of construction and meets consumer satisfaction.
Given that bricklaying is an excellent foundation for general building knowledge it’s quite common to see qualified bricklayers move on to being a builder or other important roles within the construction industry.
Several well-known ex bricklayer builders that have stamped their presence in the West Australian housing market including Dale Alcock, Gary Brown-Neaves and Craig Sheiles just to name a few.
Dean Pearson, WA Manager, ABBTF.
Had a call from Debbie Barratt in Hobart this week. She’s justifiably proud of her sons’ Luke and Matt and the apprentices working for their family bricklaying company, who were competing in the Tasmanian Regional World Skills
Bricklaying Competition. The Barratt boys and apprentices made up seven out of the eight competitors!
The competition was full-on and the winner is yet to be confirmed, but Paul Mackay from the bricklaying department at Skills Tasmania commented on the extremely high standard of bricklaying by all the competitors.
Rumour has it that the comp should be renamed the “Barratt Family Bricklaying Competition”! Colin Barratt has been a great mentor and teacher to his three sons and apprentices.
View more images > TASSIE'S BRICKLAYING BARRATTS
Colin and Debbie’s oldest son, Ben, won a silver medal in last year’s WorldSkills National Competition in Brisbane in a very tightly contested event. Obviously, quality bricklaying is in the family.
I’m always amazed at how well young apprentice bricklayers can perform under the extreme pressure of competition. We get to see a lot of outstanding apprentice bricklayers in these events. There is certainly an emerging group of quality people starting in the trade.
We wish them well for a rewarding future.
Head Office, ABBTF
It was all there at the Skills West Expo August 19 to 20, as bricklaying apprentices from around the state battled it out in the regional bricklaying World Skills competition at the Perth Convention Centre.
Some 20,000 people visited the expo to see WA’s best of the best fight it out in this prestigious international competition.
Most young men that participated in the event are in the prime of their lives, full of energy, great physics and in training! The competition is designed to test their bricklaying knowledge, competency and all round dogged determination.
All competitors where given a project to build in clay brick and masonry as per the drawing detail. Millimetres made the difference between glory and heart ache!
In the final stages of the competition, each apprentice had to build a brick pier as high as they could in just 25 minutes (not a tower of Piazza to be seen anywhere!). Check out the pics in the WA Gallery.
The who’s who of the bricklaying trade training fraternity was on hand to give support to these young chargers as they battled it out over the 2 days.
Training providers, employers and industry representatives where all very impressed with the all-round performance of each individual and the event itself got a lot of praise from the likes of Dale Alcock who visited the group whilst competing.
The state results for this event (Bunbury inclusive) were as follows: Gold = Alan Ramsden; Silver = Rhyse Moroney; Bronze = Samuel Long.
Well done to all the boys as they now prepare for the national finals in Sydney 2012 and if successful they could represent Australia in Leipzig Germany.
WA Bricklaying World Skills steering committee chair WA