Earlier this year I was very fortunate to meet Ricky Ellis, when notifying him of his win of Become-a-Bricklayer’s 10,000th ‘Like’ Facebook competition.
His is a really inspiring story about a brickie who had, and still has, the odds stacked against him. He’s got his own way of expressing his journey to his very successfully current life, making it sound easy! But I’ll let him tell the story. I found myself wondering, could I have achieved this if I was in his shoes, see what you think?
In the Year 2000 I completed my trade training in the meat industry and although I did very well, I did not enjoy it. I felt the need to work outdoors and started researching. I completed a free course in Bricklaying through the Christchurch Academy (New Zealand) and have never looked back. I now live in Australia and I enjoy a career in the Bricklaying trade with hands-on work and time to enjoy adventures, the outdoors and plenty of variety.
What makes me different as a brickie is that I was born profoundly deaf with only 20% hearing ability. My main form of communication is sign language. It is challenging to work on site with a hearing difficulty. I communicate with my hands and have to watch people’s lips when they speak, often having to ask them to repeat themselves so I can understand fully. As a result, I’ve developed very good hand-eye coordination and I take full responsibility for the work I do. On any given work site, everyone knows I am deaf and in an emergency they have their way of letting me know – usually tapping me on the shoulder.
I had an interesting start as you can imagine. While training in New Zealand (NZ), I did work experience with a 74 year old boss and I was so keen that within a month I was given a job and laying 300-400 bricks a day! By the age of 25 I was running a successful bricklaying business, “Aspiring Brickie” based in beautiful Wanaka (central South Island). The business name was inspired by NZ’s Mt Aspiring and my love of mountain climbing. However, it was not easy to find good bricklayers so I came to Australia for a change in 2008.
Bricklaying always excites me. I take pride in the work I have done for the day and while it’s a very physical job, it’s also satisfying. I must say, I enjoy working for someone else right now because all the business paperwork is done and I feel valued as a team member, sharing and learning together with others. My employer is O’Brien Brick & Blocklaying and they’re in commercial work, covering Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane. My boss is also hearing impaired, like me, so we ‘sign’ to each other, allowing us to stay very connected in the everyday work.
I’m really pleased and thankful to say that this year I gained my Bricklaying qualification via RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) with the support of ABBTF and via training with my RTO, Keystone Training. I am also a member of Master Builders, have my QBCC licence and Electrical Testing and Tagging licence and looking to do my Cert IV for low rise building by the end of the month, so I feel good about the future. In fact, with the qualification and licences to set me up I’m planning to do sub-contractor work again.
I strongly recommend the deaf and hearing impaired to give bricklaying a crack – it is a great career, the pay is good, working in the outdoors is fantastic and it seems that Australia will always be short of good bricklayers.
ABBTF Queensland Field Rep