Entry into the Building and Construction industry can come through several paths. Depending on a student’s personal development and interests, he or she will be attracted to one or more trades as a starting point. Some will stay with that discipline throughout their working life, others will continue to evolve a career through changes and upward steps. Bricklaying is an excellent starting point to a future in this industry. Once the three to four year apprenticeship is complete, progression to other qualifications and or, more responsible job roles is highly likely for those with ambition.
Development of a career path through a bricklaying apprenticeship can mean progressing to becoming a bricklayer subcontractor, a self-employed builder, a project manager for a building company or a construction manager and more. There are many full and short courses that follow along the way, that help further the opportunity for such roles and many more. Great success stories and blogs abound on people who began their career through the apprenticeship. One of the advantages that a bricklaying apprenticeship provides is that if the student aspires to a broader role such as a builder or construction manager, the fundamental skills and knowledge of construction are learned and experienced in this trade.
Life as a Bricklaying Apprentice
A very important element of a successful completion of the bricklaying apprenticeship is a good understanding by the student of what life on the job entails. Training involves 6 to 8 weeks a year at a TAFE or RTO where the technical skills of bricklaying are honed. TAFE trainers have usually been bricklayers themselves and have a strong affinity for the craft and a strong interest in the success of the student. Apart from these 6 to 8 weeks, the apprentice works day to day with a relatively small and usually close knit ‘gang’ under the supervision of the bricklayer.
Considerable care needs to be taken to ensure that a bricklaying apprentice goes into the trade with his or her eyes wide open. There are particular character types who are a ‘best fit’ for the trade, but most importantly students should do their homework on what to expect, talk with bricklayers, asking questions that matter to them. The most successful personalities are not necessarily gregarious or quiet – they are informed, patient, flexible, robust and keen to learn.
The employer has a major responsibility in the conditions of the contract of apprenticeship to ensure that the first year apprentice gets time ‘on the trowel’ as well as performing the more rudimentary supportive roles to the team. The first year is crucial in maintaining the enthusiasm of both parties. The largest drop-out rate unfortunately occurs in this year due to disillusionment with the trade by the apprentice and due to relationship breakdown.
Support the Student through Exploring and Trial
The best thing about choosing a bricklaying apprenticeship is that it opens so many doors, as stated above, such that any later career change within the building and construction industry will automatically be upwards because of the strong foundation bricklaying provides.
However, the industry also provides tools to help students consider Bricklaying as a longterm career choice. The Australian Brick and Blocklaying Training Foundation (ABBTF) provides you with a teachers classroom lesson guide and online student proforma to evaluate career options including bricklaying. It is available at the Become a Bricklayer Website. At the website students will also find a range of information to assist in understanding what to expect and what a career in bricklaying can mean in terms of opportunities. There is a Blog which tackles real life industry issues and aims to attract comment from all stakeholders, including career teachers. Try-a-Trade is available at school, in some States. Contact your local ABBTF Manager for information and to discuss opportunities to assist students in starting their career in Construction through the craft of bricklaying.
Geoff Noble, General Manager, ABBTF.