When I started building some 27 years ago, the plan was to earn a bit of cash while I waited to reach the minimum age for joining the police. But I enjoyed the work so much I never left.
After starting out in a pre-cut and nail company, I shifted to work with an actual builder, but could never get an apprenticeship, so I just kept on building and learning because at that stage you didn’t need a qualification to work. After a few years, I assumed I had missed the opportunity to get qualified.
I tell this story because I imagine it is similar to many other builders out there who now find themselves in the same boat.
Through my company, Selva Residential, I’ve put two guys through their apprenticeships and have another one just starting his third year. I know their careers will certainly benefit by having a formal qualification, and I know when I was their age I was less than thrilled about missing out on the chance.
With the Licensed Building Practitioner scheme coming into effect from March 2012, there will be more focus on qualifications across the whole industry. And by 2015 it will become impossible to get a license without a qualification.
After completing my first two apprentices, I was at a Master Builders meeting one night when I bumped into someone from the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation who told me about an experience recognition programme they have in place for builders like me — people who have a wealth of practical experience but are more than likely too busy to “go back to school”, but who see the value in getting their National Certificate.
The programme allows you to gain the BCITO’s National Certificate in Carpentry, using your work on past projects to demonstrate your skills, thereby ticking-off areas against the certificate in which you are clearly competent.
To have your experience recognised and credited towards a National Certificate, a BCITO training advisor will examine your portfolio and recognise any knowledge gaps you may have.
For those who are deemed not to have any knowledge gaps, the process can be over in a few months.
To fill any knowledge gaps, you’re given a set of books — the same ones you might have seen your own apprentices using — and then it’s just a matter of working through them.
You go at your own pace and can get it done in six weeks, six months or longer if you’re stretched for time. Whichever way you choose, it works out to be much faster, and much cheaper, than starting from scratch.
And I definitely gained some knowledge in the process. It starts out pretty easy, but the materials move on pretty quickly to cover some pretty complicated areas, proving you can keep on learning until the day you hang up your tools.
The bottom line is that if you’re anything like me, you’ll have noticed the industry is changing and, to be a professional builder, a qualification is fast becoming a necessity.
This is a chance to have your experience and skills recognised in order to help future-proof your business and career.
It is certainly a good move to stay ahead of the curve on this, taking advantage of the opportunity now rather than being forced to sign up for a course a year or two down the line because you’re seeing an impact on your business.