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Progressing our industry

Photos: Alastair Bett Photography

Progressing our industry

Photos: Alastair Bett Photography
{{ tag.label }} {{ tag.label }} $vuetify.icons.faTimes
How do we address our skills shortage? A school-based model in Tasmania for curious students could be part of the answer for the whole country.

Ian Bushnell

Content Writer

Get them early and make it count – that’s the simple premise of a HIA program in Tasmanian high schools that is fast becoming an industry pathway and possibly a national model for meeting the skills shortage.

YouthBuild, described as a ‘try a trade’ or ‘work at school’ program, had been reasonably successful in providing students with a taste of what working in the housing and construction industry would be like, and encouraging them to pursue an apprenticeship. But it was limited to a single campus and the work did not count towards any formal qualification. 

HIA embarked on an overhaul of the program in league with the Education Department, and this latest iteration of youthBuild launched as a pilot in three schools in 2021. This time it wasn’t an add-on but fully accredited and embedded in the curriculum. It is part of the Department’s Architecture and Construction Package of Learning in Years 9 and 10, providing assessable practical electives across six units.

Explore the innovative new program on HIA's youthBuild site

HIA youthBUILD Chair Rob Watchorn with students from Cosgrove High School, Tasmania
youthBUILD’s structural landscaping at Rose Bay High School in Hobart.

It has been a hit with students and parents, and has now been taken up by 11 schools, both public and private, across the state, involving 200 participants. The program has been complemented by the launch of HIA’s Apprenticeship Scheme in Tasmania.

YouthBuild Committee Chair Rob Watchorn, an HIA Life Member and business owner of Blythe & Watchorn Builders, has been instrumental in the program’s renewal. He says it’s engaging students and making subjects such as English and Maths relevant and relatable through the various tasks and projects they undertake.

‘It really gets kids involved, and it has the backing of parents more now because it’s a lot more targeted,’ he says.

While HIA wants to attract the brightest and best to the industry, Rob says the program is also capturing those who may be struggling at school. It’s catching kids early, particularly those who don’t necessarily succeed in a normal learning environment.

As someone who did not enjoy school and left after Year 10, but then found his calling when he began working in the housing industry, Rob is passionate about how youthBuild can make a difference to the lives of young people.

‘It’s creating pathways for those who want to be in our industry, regardless of their background or barriers,’ he says. ‘We need the highest standard of apprentices entering our industry, so if programs in schools and the like achieve that outcome, it’s great.’

Rob says it gives kids a head start and a big advantage for anyone who hasn’t done any sort of training like this. ‘There’s nothing else like it available, so it’ll become more and more popular.’

YouthBuild has attracted industry funding, including from HIA’s Keystone Tasmania, while Stratco came onboard as a partner too, making it now virtually self-sufficient. HIA also employed a dedicated youthBuild officer to maintain and grow the program across the state.

YouthBuild schools can submit projects for approval and HIA will support them through its member trade and supplier network, as well as reimbursing their costs.

One such project was a structural landscaping job, including outdoor furniture, at Rose Bay High School, while currently Jordan River Learning Federation is constructing a long table to be installed at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart.

Structural landscaping at Rose Bay High School
It’s important to expose students early to the diverse possibilities of a career in the industry before their study options are set
Stuart Collins: HIA Executive Director – Tasmania

HIA is developing a ‘project vault’ with a selection of standard pre-approved jobs for schools to undertake through the program.

Work is also under way to develop basic financial literacy training for youthBUILD students and get them placed with businesses for work experience. Those who complete the two years of youthBUILD can go on to a school-based apprenticeship in Years 11 and 12.

HIA is also exploring the possibility of delivering a Certificate II in Construction Pathways with TasTAFE from its Claremont facility for youthBUILD students who don’t enrol in a school-based apprenticeship.

Stuart Collins, HIA Executive Director – Tasmania, says HIA has mapped out a pathway from early high school through to apprenticeships with the goal of attracting highly motivated participants who will not only be work ready but already have some skillsets.

Stuart believes they will also be more likely to complete their training, something that has been an ongoing issue with apprenticeships across the country.

‘It’s important to expose students early to the diverse possibilities of a career in the industry before their study options are set,’ he says. ‘We need to ensure that if they are going to continue their education that we keep them engaged and programs like this is where it all starts.’

Stuart adds that if students are thinking about construction in year 9 and 10, then it’s easier to transition them into VET programs or school-based apprenticeships so that they’re engaged through until the end of their schooling.

He says the program is also building self-esteem among students as they acquire skills and develop projects. ‘For many it’s a bit of a lightbulb moment about education,’ he says.

About 20 per cent of youthBUILD participants so far have been females. ‘When we talk about skill shortages, the only way we’re going to address that is by encouraging more of the other half of the population to get involved with our industry,’ Stuart says.

YouthBUILD also signifies a welcome shift in thinking about education, away from an overwhelming emphasis on university. Rob says 20 years ago people used to say you only went into a trade if you couldn’t do anything else: ‘Well, those opinions are changing, and trades are becoming a career of choice’.

Stuart sees no reason why youthBUILD could not be replicated elsewhere. ‘This model can be picked up and implemented in most states,’ he says.

Rob too sees the program going from strength to strength. ‘We are fast getting to a stage where we will have a complete pathway from high school to apprenticeship. I can’t see how that can be anything other than a success for our industry.’

For more information, visit HIA Apprentices.

Published on 17 March 2023

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