NSW Bricklaying Industry Helps Middle Eastern Refugees Start a New Life in Australia
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Key players in the bricklaying industry in NSW have recently joined forces to provide bricklayer apprenticeship training for Middle-Eastern refugees to help them start a new life in Sydney. The program is a united effort from ABBTF the bricklaying apprenticeships peak body, together with Australia’s largest brick maker Austral Bricks and Settlement Services International (SSI), a not-for-profit humanitarian organisation helping refugees resettle in Australia.

The focus of the project is ABBTF’s introductory training course in bricklaying, known as the Work Ready Program (WRP) which in this case was held at Granville TAFE in the heart of western Sydney. Importantly, by helping prospective apprentices to be ‘work-ready’ before they start the Apprenticeship, it is also helping to introduce candidates who are a good fit for bricklaying.   Such apprentices are more likely to ‘stay the course’ of their apprenticeship, ultimately helping overcome the severe shortage of bricklayers as NSW building activity remains at record levels. Assisting at the recent course was Arop Arup, a Sudanese born bricklayer who has now completed his bricklaying apprenticeship and who featured on last year’s ABBTF Annual Report cover.

After the short, introductory training course, candidates who are suited and wish to advance to the apprenticeship are matched with builders and other construction companies to learn onsite in conjunction with their TAFE/RTO studies to become fully qualified over the duration of the Certificate III.

The Housing Industry Association has reported that residential construction has seen national commencements increase by more than 44% over the past three years to 220,000 starts. By comparison, in the same period, NSW commencements have increased by a high 70.6% to 58,860 starts. There simply aren’t enough bricklayers to meet demand levels and as a result waiting times for new homes have stretched out as builders struggle to keep pace. ABBTF NSW has had good results in rebuilding the supply of bricklayers but demand remains high.

Popularity of Brick in High Rise, Boosts Demand

Mark Ellenor the Group General Manager of Austral Bricks and I took the idea to Settlement Services International who organised the recruitment days at their office. The Granville TAFE then came on board supplying us with the training facilities.

“We have the greatest shortage of bricklayers we’re seen in recent times amid all time record levels of new construction especially given the popularity of bricks again in high rise. At the same time we have a sharply higher intake of refugees who have some construction industry experience, who want to work hard and make a new life in the State,” Mark Ellenor said.

ABBTF’s WRP deals with all of those issues in one go. Provided the trainees have the aptitude and want to become bricklayers, we have the training on-tap and jobs lined up within weeks of them coming on board. Where needed, ABBTF is supplying the refugee trainees with interpreters to work alongside them on the training program. It’s also providing the white card training and even the steel capped boots they need for this kind of work.

ABBTF, Austral Bricks and SSI as a team are doing whatever we can to make all of these considerations as easy to solve as possible. We believe this is a great way to help people who have suffered enormously as refugees, by giving them a career start for their new life in Australia, working in one of the great Australian trades.


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