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A life less ordinary

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Just over a decade ago, Ruairi Taylor won the HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice award. At the time, he had no idea this would be the beginning of his biggest adventure.

Anne-Maree Brown

General Manager of Content

In 2012, the HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice award was presented to a young man named Ruairi Taylor from the ACT. Among a strong field of contenders, his attitude, holistic view of site safety, and broad understanding of the industry made Ruairi stand out from the crowd.

Since his win over a decade ago, life has changed significantly for Ruairi. Now a father of two and owner of his own successful business, Indepth Building Solutions, Ruairi chats to Housing about his win, how it has shaped his journey, and what he has learnt along the way.

In the early 2000s, Ruairi was a man on a mission to learn about the world and immerse himself in its teachings. After growing up in a small town of Temora in rural NSW, young Ruairi had wanderlust. ‘While many of my friends were keen to stay put, I was keen to spread my wings and explore.

So I set off travelling, exploring the UK and Europe, with a stint working in Rome.’ By concentrating on transportable hospitality roles, his life was satisfying. ‘I wasn’t focused on a career at all. It was more about life – living moment by moment.

British author and political observer David Goddart once observed that people primarily could be divided into two categories: ‘Somewheres’ and ‘Anywheres’. Somewheres are those whose identity is largely attributed to where they were born, their local community and nationality. But Anywheres, by comparison, are global by nature and form their identity based on life experiences, travel, adventure and networks born from their journeys. Ruairi is definitely an Anywhere; a pupil in the school of life.

After many years of working, travelling and having fun, Ruairi returned to Australia at the age of 24. Securing a job as a trades assistant in Tasmania for a mine construction firm, he discovered that the work, kinship with his teammates and his lifestyle suited him more than he could have anticipated.

During this time, he uncovered a natural dexterity for carpentry. ‘I was really good with my hands, and was a natural problem-solver. I loved working with timber, so I soon realised that a carpentry apprenticeship would be the right move for me.’

But after years of living from adventure to adventure, Ruairi did have his doubters. ‘I had friends and family asking, “Are you sure?” They weren’t being negative – they were just making sure this path was the right one. They couldn’t believe I finally wanted to set down some roots.’

Former HIA award winner Ruairi Taylor with his wife Em
In 2012 Ruairi won the HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice award

As it turned out, his new work crew in Tasmania had handy connections, putting him in touch with HIA member and passionate ACT builder Michael Patt of Vision Building Group.

Michael wasn’t looking for an apprentice at this stage. However, this experienced and instinctive builder and host recognised Ruairi’s talent and energy so he gave him a chance. Michael started him on trial but by the end of that week, he scored an apprenticeship.

When recently asked about Ruairi, Michael Patt reflected on what made him such a stand-out. He contributes some of this to his age and maturity level when embarking on his carpentry career. But interestingly, he also acknowledges his life experiences. ‘Ruairi was a natural leader. But it was his ability to know how to communicate with trades, clients and colleagues that stood out. His drive, maturity and confidence set him apart back then and that’s why he’s successful to this day,’ he says.

The admiration goes both ways. Ruairi explained he could not have found a better role model than Michael. ‘His main strength is the ability to tolerate a lot and maintain a calm demeanour. Being a leader and taking some things in his stride are great qualities and ones I’ve modelled in my own life and business.’

Recent carpentry work by Ruairi
With his kids Albi and Robbie

When Michael nominated Ruairi for HIA’s apprentice of the year awards in his region, so began the flow of winning regionally and then nationally. For Ruairi, an underlying goal was being realised. Shortly after he started his apprenticeship, he became aware of awards programs. ‘I remember thinking, “If I get the chance to do this, I’m going to aim to win these awards”. That was my goal.

‘When I won the award, it was a huge feeling of relief – I’d reached my goal. I remember a great teacher said to me if your short-term goals don’t line up with the long-term goals, you’re in trouble. So I said to myself, “If I’m going to be 26 years old, getting paid nothing, I’m going to make sure I reap the rewards”.’
Over a decade on from his win, the bounties have been in abundance, both personally and professionally. Now a father, business owner, apprentice host and well-respected builder, Ruairi also has continued to make a name for himself in an industry not short on excellence. 

Ruairi has expanded his knowledge as an HIA GreenSmart professional. His understanding of the skill and detailed management qualities he brings to projects can be best explained by respected sustainable housing expert Jenny Edwards of Lighthouse Architecture and Science. ‘It’s always great to work with Ruairi,’ she says. ‘His attention to detail and genuinely heartfelt interest in sustainability ensure we always get a great result. In fact, two of our most-loved award-winning projects were brought to life by Ruairi: The Fab-ode and Little Loft House.’

But one of the most sacred things for Ruairi is the importance of mentors in his career and his life. He has established valued relationships and treasured knowledge with other businesses in the industry, such as Michael Patt, Jenny Edwards and Tom Henderson from 35 Degrees. Here, Ruairi has carved a strong business relationship in the Canberra market. 

Ruairi onsite with Tim

By listening and learning from others, and developing building relationships, Ruairi continues to grow his reputation of quality craftsmanship, honesty and integrity. Once a roaming soul, he has found his place and his purpose. 

‘My family is my greatest success with my wife Em by my side. I couldn’t have done this alone. Over the years, I’ve learnt that balance is so important. When I’m at work, I’m at work. I switch gears when I’m at home, and the family comes first.’

After working in the industry for so many years, Ruairi has some handy advice for up-and-coming apprentices. ‘You need to take care of yourself. You should find something you love outside of work and family life – something just for you. It helps keeps you sane.’

This Anywhere has found solace in his special Somewhere and Someones. 

Published on 15 May 2022.

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