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On the surface it may appear that carpenter Chris Tapp has diverted from his family’s choice of career by opting to make his in the building industry. Back in his home country of New Zealand his mother and three sisters all became teachers while he transitioned from school into a trade apprenticeship.
Considering the course of his professional journey so far however, perhaps teaching was always going to be part of Chris’ vocation – if just in a different context. For nearly 15 years he has worked for Canberra Commercial Contractors, and during this time has been heavily involved with the training of the numerous apprentices whom the business has taken on over the years.
‘Originally, I did my carpentry apprenticeship and I do enjoy working as a carpenter, but I’ve found I also really enjoy managing people,’ he says.
Sometimes called the foreman and other times the project manager, in his day-to-day job Chris oversees the operations for the diverse building contracts that are Canberra Commercial Contractors’ bread and butter. These contracts vary from high-end residential houses, apartments or small-scale commercial decking projects to refurbishments of the institutional buildings home to our nation’s capital, such as Parliament House. A significant part of that role is managing and coordinating the various trades, labourers and apprentices who form the work teams, resolving any building site issues or design queries, problem solving logistical challenges and in general making sure everyone is where they’re meant to be, doing what they should be doing.
It’s a big responsibility but a job he clearly loves and thrives on: ‘I’ve found the challenges of keeping the bosses happy, the builders happy and getting the work done on time and to budget, while helping to make sure our workers still want to keep coming to work each day – those are the challenges I enjoy,’ Chris says.
A strong commitment to providing a positive work environment – especially for the apprentices – saw Canberra Commercial Contractors take out the honour of the 2019 HIA ACT & Southern NSW Apprentice Host of the Year award, while one of its fourth-year apprentices, Brodie Cockayne, also took home the region’s Apprentice of the Year award.
Canberra Commercial Contractors has plenty of success stories of young people who have gone on to have successful roles upon completing their apprenticeships. ‘Jonathan Warren, our other project manager who shares my role, completed his apprenticeship with us. One of our apprentices started his own business in residential building and a lot of our leading hands, who are now running our jobs, were apprentices with us. So, they’re now working their way up to management roles within the business.’
Currently, the commercial carpentry firm has six apprentices through HIA’s apprentice scheme, five of whom are female. Chris says it’s becoming much more common to see a female apprentice onsite than it was when he completed his training, and more often than not, they’re giving the boys a run for their money. ‘The girls are keeping up and often showing up the boys a lot of the time,’ he says. ‘With girls in particular I’ve found it is a conscious decision to become a tradesperson and they have a genuine interest in the industry.’