There were all smiles at the Bricklaying exhibit area of the Kwinana Jobs and Skills Expo in WA on Wednesday this week when the Prime Minister and a large contingent dropped by for a chat and to try laying bricks. Julia Gillard shook hands and took some bricklaying advice from young pre-apprentice, Wayde Brown, one of three pre-apprentices from Challenger TAFE who were assigned to work at the exhibition for the day and create a project for display.
Craig Butler, Program Manager for Construction at Challenger has responsibility for Bricklaying, as well as other roles in Plastering and Carpentry. He said “the Expo provides the young pre-apprentices with a great opportunity to get some exposure to dealing with the public and to test their communication skills, but we never thought it would be with the Prime Minister”. This group is only four weeks into its twenty week bricklaying pre-apprenticeship course designed to provide life skills and some basics like mortar mixing.
The students will spend three weeks with an employer as part of the course training, after which they’ll be encouraged to seek out their own employer for a bricklaying apprenticeship. ABBTF provided promotional materials on choosing bricklaying as a trade. This is one of the many events in WA where ABBTF promote bricklaying and the career opportunities that come from a qualification in the trade.
The Jobs and Skills Expos are designed to create a ‘jobs and skills marketplace’, bringing together employment services providers and training organisations, as well as Government and other agencies with employers and job seekers, all under one roof, all on one day.
Dean Pearson, ABBTF WA Manager
I started my apprenticeship when I was 18. In hindsight a little later than I would’ve liked, but it probably worked out well, reinforcing that bricklaying was something I really wanted to do…and not just a cop out of school. Bricklaying wasn’t a desirable trade to the majority at the time, and that was something that appealed to me. People shied away from the “dirty, hard work” image the trade has, and would rather be a sparky or a chippy, and doing something different as well as something that people knew was tough going was rewarding.
The first week was everything like everyone said, fast and hard. I can remember it being hot all week and my boss had a big crew, so I was thrown in the deep end straight away labouring for about 4-5 blokes. But after the first couple of weeks I got used to it and started enjoying it. Also with my boss having a large crew, it was difficult at first to get on the trowel, because there was simply not enough time.
But with the introduction of the first home buyers grant, the construction boom was an open invitation for most of the brickies in the crew to go out on their own and make some better money. This gave me the opportunity I needed to start learning how to lay bricks, and I can remember thinking how easy my bosses made it look. I was lucky that once I started on the trowel, I never really got off, and I think that is the key to good, fast learning. Not a day here or there. Everyday.
I’m now a qualified bricklayer with my own business. I have one apprentice at the moment, it took a few blokes to get the right one, but that’s part of the game. I love having an apprentice on board, it makes things easier on me and I can show him the things my bosses showed me and give him a career. I would love to take on more apprentices in the future, possibly even in the next couple of months. The ABBTF subsidies really come in handy when hiring an apprentice, because teaching them does cost time. It also compensates for the time they are at TAFE and not onsite, and all in all I think is a good concept and something that needs to be a permanent incentive for employers.
I wonder if other brickies have shared the same positive experience I had starting out, especially good time on the trowel. I’d like to get your comments here.
Bricklayer, Business Owner
We are getting feedback from industry on the benefits of training off the job.
We have seen a more flexible approach to training in recent years with a better blend of on-site and off-site training and assessment. This has been welcomed as skills gained in a building and construction environment can be recognised by assessors on-site and therefore reduce the time an apprentice spends off the job.
We have also seen that attendance at an off-site training facility provides other valuable aspects of training. Apprentices have access to a number of skilled and qualified bricklayer trainers. They also benefit from learning in a team and can relate to other apprentices in their year level or higher.
Off-site training also has the advantage of protection from the weather so there are never disruptions or delays to the training. In many cases there is also flexibility in providing training for apprentices during inclement weather.
Training facilities at TAFE or other Registered Training Organisations also provide extensive equipment, floor space and a range of concrete masonry and clay products to improve skills on more complex projects required as part of decorative face brickwork. If you’re not familiar with the names and locations of TAFE’s and RTO’s, check Locations in Your State Directory here at the website.
In many training centres, state of the art class rooms make it easier for apprentices to gain the necessary knowledge on bricklaying. This is the best learning environment for the theory content of the course. To compliment this, some RTO’s now also offer online training and assessment systems.
Employers appreciate that off-site training shares the load of training their apprentices, giving them more productive time on the job, a more well-grounded apprentice and therefore, financially a better outcome than achieved using onsite assessment.
If you have a query on this or other aspects of how an apprenticeship in bricklaying works, reply to this blog by clicking ‘Comment’ just under the title of this blog. Cheers.
General Manager, ABBTF
16 March 2012