It’s an industry that has literally formed the building blocks of our civilisation – the foundations of empires, cities and kingdoms. From the Egyptian Pyramids and Ancient Rome, to the Guggenheim Museum and New York City’s skyline, the building and construction industry has been responsible for them all.
But when we think of building and construction as a career path, many people just see long hours, fluoro vests and hard hats. While the industry isn’t exactly glamorous, it contributes a large chunk to our economy and accounts for 10 per cent of all employment in Australia. And with spring underway, the building industry will start heating up.
For those considering a career in construction, there are lots of benefits to consider too – higher wages, working outdoors and being able to earn money while learning, being but a few of them. So whether you want to help families build their dream home or work on multi-billion dollar projects like Sydney’s Barangaroo redevelopment, the building industry has something for everyone.
Becoming a tradesperson these days is a good way to earn a solid income. According to the 2012 Suncorp Bank Wages Report, blue-collar workers earn an average of $1229 a week, $144 more than those working behind a desk. Occupations range widely and can include becoming a bricklayer, plumber, joiner, tiler, painter and carpenter. Which trade you pursue really comes down to what you’re most interested in.
Regardless of what you pick, becoming a tradie has many advantages.
‘As a tradie I love being able to embrace the outdoors, being involved in physical activity on a day-to-day basis and feeling an extraordinary sense of achievement after completing a large scale job’, says plumber Rob Colubriale.
You’ll start out as a paid apprentice, with most apprenticeships lasting about four years, after which you’ll work as an experienced tradesperson. So if you like working with your hands and don’t mind a bit of hard yakka, learning a trade is definitely a career you ought to consider.
If you like working on site and operating or fixing machinery, being a skilled worker is probably the best fit for you. Jobs include being a crane driver, concrete worker, reinforcement fixer and rigger – workers you’ll often find on the bigger construction sites.
There’s a lot of good money in being a skilled worker, but it can take years to learn the ropes, build a reputation and get a licence for your skills. Some positions involve operating large pieces of equipment or machinery, so you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age and will probably need a formal licence, such as a forklift licence. In terms of starting out, you’ll most probably spend your first few years as a builder’s labourer, where you’ll pick up specialised skills on the job. Completing some short courses will also help you along.
Being a para-professional means you’ll be working as a technician or at a superior level. Occupations range greatly and can include anything from being an architectural drafter, building surveyor or construction supervisor to an interior designer. You’ll need technical training, with the minimum requirement being a Certificate IV level qualification. For example, a Diploma of Building and Construction would be a good course to have under your belt.
Although you can become a para-pro without completing an apprenticeship, working as a tradesperson first is a major advantage. It’ll give you all the hands-on experience you’ll need as well as a solid understanding of your chosen specialty.
Professional careers in building range from being an architect or civil engineer to being a town planner or quantity surveyor – the options really are endless. Being a professional in the building sector means you’ll split your time between the office and being out on site.
‘I love being able to work on projects from when they're just ideas on paper until completion’, says civil engineer Karim Abou-Youssef. ‘I come into the office every day and the work I do goes towards a physical end product that people can see and use’.
Abou-Youssef also loves the technical expertise that comes with being a civil engineer.
‘I really enjoy being the expert and having the answers to problems. When an architect has a creative idea or vision for a building, we are the people who can make that vision a reality’.
But before you can help build bridges, buildings or whole cities as a professional in construction, you’ll need a university degree that is tailored to your profession such as a Bachelor of Engineering or a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning. You’ll also need a range of unique skills. According to Abou-Youssef, engineers need to be ‘good problem-solvers, lateral thinkers, and good at understanding and communicating ideas with colleagues and other consultants’.
So if you like to develop ideas, plan things out and have creative and artistic responsibility, then why not consider becoming a building ‘pro’.
While builders and tradies are crucial to a construction job, so too are managers. They oversee the overall planning, coordination and control of a project, from its inception right through to completion. A team is only as good as its leader, and that is exactly what a construction manager is. They’re in charge of everything from cost management, time management and quality management to contract administration. It’s a tough gig, and gets even tougher the larger the project scale is. You’ll need strong logistical thinking, problem-solving abilities and leadership skills. A degree like a Master of Construction Management or a qualification in project management would also be extremely helpful if you want to head down this career path.
Check out our range of courses for the building and construction industry.