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A carpenter on a work site once gave a young Ashley Badcock some free advice: ‘You’d be better off working in a bank’.
Fortunately, he wasn’t so easily deterred. Ashley went on to be the 1996 HIA SA Apprentice of the Year and now owns his own business, but the story is an example of the kind of shoals young people in the building industry have to negotiate.
Ashley is sole director of Framelink, a prefabricated frame and truss manufacturer and installer in Melbourne, and is passionate about training and the importance of supporting apprentices as the future of the industry.
He remembers ending up at university simply because he could, with his school not even offering the option of a trade. ‘I passed with flying colours in [Orientation] Week but failed miserably thereafter,’ he says.
Putting uni behind him, Ashley talked to a friend about the role of building supervisor. He liked the idea of working with trades and being responsible for something you could see growing in front of you every day.
He managed to find some work experience with a builder, and was told that pursuing carpentry would be the best path into the building industry.
We’re working with HIA to help [our apprentices] develop and they’ve got the tools that I would never have as a business
Despite the 1990s recession, Ashley was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with HIA, which placed him with a number of employers (including a framing gang where he received the unsolicited advice). He says the support he received from HIA helped him to stick with the apprenticeship, and a different placement gave him the confidence he needed to excel.
This time one of the carpenters told him he was the best apprentice he had ever seen, and the experience reinforced for him the importance of creating the right environment and support structure for apprentices to be successful.
‘It was quite a contrast,’ Ashley says. ‘I tell that story quite often to apprentices who come through us to help them stay focused and to show that previous negative experiences don’t have to mould them.’
Loyalty, a willingness to take a chance on someone and providing opportunities to grow were lessons just as valuable as his trade, which Ashley took out of his apprenticeship. He has applied those lessons in his own business, particularly with one of his apprentices who was struggling. ‘I said to him, “I want to make you into a carpenter, just do the right thing by us and we’ll do the right thing by you”,’ Ashley says. ‘I’d like to think that we’ve given this young fellow the environment to figure out what he wants to do.’
Crucial to that is the support HIA can bring through the organisation’s training arm. ‘We’re working with HIA to help him develop and they’ve got tools that I would never have as a business.’
Ashley loved his time as an HIA Apprentice and his best friends come from the same program. He admits he wasn’t the best carpenter but it was his curiosity, willingness to learn and thirst for knowledge about the building industry itself, not just the trade, that impressed his employers and the judges.
As Framelink continues to expand, Ashley continues to employ more dedicated apprentices.
Qualities that he tries to instil in his own apprentices now, as well as encouraging their dreams to one day run a business too. ‘We have a young fellow who has just finished his time and he’s very open that in two years he wants to go out on his own, and that was me as well. I just love the idea of that,’ he says.
Being a mentor as well as a boss is something Ashley takes seriously, and he encourages staff, including senior apprentices, to do the same and pass on their knowledge.
Providing a sense of progression in the organisation is also important, such as encouraging third-year apprentices to take a first-year under their wing and train them to be a leading hand and run their own gang, as well as providing some career planning so they know where they’re headed.
Ashley has also set up review and feedback sessions with the apprentices so he knows their needs, they understand what is required of them, and how they are progressing. ‘Everyone needs to know their value in the organisation…that helps people through the bad days knowing there is a bigger picture at play,’ he says.
Ashley did get to be a building supervisor but it was a case of being thrown in the deep end at a young age, making a tough job even more difficult. It was yet another lesson in the importance of having the right support and culture around you to be successful. ‘I was a really young supervisor and I probably didn’t have the support network around me that these days someone might have.’
It didn’t stop him from managing a custom home builder in Victoria before taking on a truss plant. This operation closed down and it was like all of Ashley’s experiences led to his own business, and with some key staff they opened Framelink in Pakenham in May 2019.
‘My carpentry and management experience dovetailed and lended itself perfectly to such a role,’ he says, adding he relished the opportunity to be back on the tools.
Running his own business was overwhelming at first but growth was steady until the pandemic hit, prompting him to offer an install service, which has become Framelink’s point of difference. It provides a complete carpentry solution to builders, from engineering, design, manufacture and then installation right up to certification.
It’s a service that has proven popular with mostly smaller builders and low-end commercial projects looking to reduce site time.
As the company continues to expand, and employ more apprentices, Ashley looks to HIA as the cornerstone to its sustained development, from where it can source quality young people to be a part of the journey. ‘HIA is a genuine partner. Coming through the system myself, and knowing the group training system, I have an innate confidence in it,’ he says.
We all share the responsibility for training the next generation of workers to keep the industry going, so if you’re thinking of taking on an apprentice, let HIA manage it for you. Or if you know of someone who is looking to commence a career in construction, then give HIA Apprentices a call.
We offer a cost-effective and low-maintenance choice, designed to benefit both hosts and apprentices. HIA has options for businesses to host directly or for those businesses that do not directly employ apprentices due to their structure, but want to support an apprentice and recognise a preferred contractor.