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Going places

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One of the building industry’s most promising apprentices started out at a young age, his love for design and construction only growing alongside his abilities. Meet Brayden Burgess, the 2022 HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice winner.

Laura Valic

Editor

Perhaps 22-year-old Brayden Burgess was always going to work in a physical job that predominantly uses his hands. A high-achieving athlete and passionate drummer from childhood, he had a ready-to-go skillset of persistence and coordination to bring with him to a work experience placement at local building firm, PB Quality Constructions (PBQC) in Newcastle.

However, this was no casual labouring job that so many often tout as being their first taste of life on the tools, but a formal study program that allows high school students to begin trade learning and complete a Certificate II in Construction. From there, they can make an informed decision to pursue a career in the building industry.

For a motivated worker like Brayden – who impressed his HIA host so much he was offered an apprenticeship at the end of his placement in 2017 – the decision was a no-brainer. ‘I gained a real love and passion for the carpentry trade [during that time] and saw myself excelling in everything that came with it,’ he says.

The opportunity to work with skilled trades on the architecturally designed custom homes and renovations that PBQC typically complete has proven to be a big eye-opener and rich training ground for the young carpentry apprentice. ‘Some of the jobs that we do are pretty insane!’ Brayden says. ‘I’ve been involved in a few multi-level projects that have consisted of suspended concrete slabs and cantilevering levels.’

HIA Apprentice Brayden Burgess with fiance Maisey, and Paul and Christy Blowes of PB Quality Constructions at the 2022 HIA–CSR Australian Housing Awards.
While completing his Certificate IV in Building in Construction, Brayden is also studying a Bachelor of Construction Management with the University of Newcastle

HIA member and business owner Paul Blowes prides himself on running a smooth operation; he has become known in the Hunter region for producing exacting work and a high level of client service on the handful of projects he selects each year.

With an eye for excellence, he knew from the outset that Brayden was going to be an asset to his business. ‘Since the beginning of his apprenticeship, Brayden has shown initiative and demonstrated leadership qualities – his workmanship is excellent for his time spent in the industry so far.’ 

A head-down attitude served the new recruit well. He accepted that in the early days he would be given many of the ‘worst jobs’ onsite, explaining it’s something you just have to expect and ‘push through’ as an apprentice. But he used the experiences to watch and learn from everyone he could, picking up the best methods to use himself. Soon, he found he was hands-on with everything from set outs, formwork and all kinds of framing to waterproofing, pinning and setting internal linings and fit outs.

Some days he was helping to order and estimate, and on others he was laying floating floorboards. Never one to be idle, by his third year Brayden had also teamed up with another tradesman to work a few side jobs, and together they would fashion salvaged hardwood timber into unique ‘wow’ pieces, such as front doors or dining tables. 

This type of woodwork he thoroughly enjoys, honing his general carpentry skills and even trying out an old school technique or two. ‘We were building this little deck frame on the job, stitching onto steel and the framework,’ he says, ‘and rather than doing just the classic bar joins, we thought let's do all the half lap joins that you would do back in the day because [we’re working with] hardwood. That’s a lot of fun – completing intricate timber work and then [stepping back and saying] “yeah, that looks good”.’

Brayden and Stratco's Andrew Staff with Peter Helliar
Brayden surfing with his mates

Brayden admits the steep learning curves of his apprenticeship with PBQC has at times been anxiety-inducing, dealing with the pressure and high stakes of complex building work, but he has always been encouraged and guided by his host trainer. Paul recently supported him on a project to oversee the excavations, concrete pours and framing, as well as instructing and supervising other apprentices.</p>

<p>Taking the lead meant Brayden was naturally in regular communication with the architect, client and other trades throughout, problem solving and collaboratively finding solutions when the need arose.

Paul says he is handling the challenge and increased responsibility: ‘[I can see] he has the potential to be a site supervisor or project manager and [certainly] he has the ability to run his own business one day.’

For Brayden, this is exactly what he is striving towards. While completing his Certificate IV in Building in Construction, he has simultaneously been studying a Bachelor of Construction Management with the University of Newcastle, which he is half-way through. ‘My long-term goals would ideally be to start in a supervising role on building sites with my current company and then move into either construction management for large-scale commercial sites or to start my own residential building company.’

Brayden has been a passionate drummer from childhood
He used the experiences to watch and learn from everyone 

It was his commitment to learning, competency and eagerness that commanded the attention of HIA judges who named Brayden the 2022 HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice (partnered by Stratco) in April, out of the impressive group of state finalists. Seated with his hosts Paul and wife Christy and fiance Maisey at the HIA–CSR Australian Housing Awards black-tie affair on the Gold Coast, Brayden jumped up in surprise when his name was called out.

‘Going to the event I thought, “I’d love to win but probably won’t!”’ Brayden says. ‘I met a lot of the other apprentices and thought everyone here deserves to win it. But it’s really encouraging [to be recognised] and I’m hoping the award will help me in terms of the future.’

He encourages other hosts thinking about putting forward an apprentice for the award to ‘go for it’. ‘You're not just helping your apprentice to expand and go on to greater things, you're also marketing your own business and putting it in such a good spotlight.’

The short travel break from the job site was a well-deserved respite for Brayden who ‘is constantly doing things’, including the renovations on one of his most important projects to date – his new house. Being part of the transformation process of turning ‘old run-down’ structures into brand-new, shining ‘masterpieces’ have been some of his most memorable experiences as an apprentice over the past four years. Now he gets to do that for himself and his finance…preferably in time for their wedding in the new year.

For more information on hiring an apprentice through HIA’s Group Training Organisation (GTO), call HIA Apprentices online or on 1300 650 620.

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