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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

The difference maker

The difference maker

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Start with originality and imagination. Now add in problem-solving skills and a commitment to change and you have a future leader. Beth Mercieca, the 2023 HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice winner, embodies all of the above and more.

Anne-Maree Brown

General Manager of Content

West of Sydney, the Blue Mountains rises dramatically from the suburban sprawl. It’s known for its soaring sandstone rock formations, native bushland and quaint villages. This World Heritage-listed wonderland is counterbalanced by the ever-present extremes of nature. High temperatures, low rainfall and periods of high winds makes it one of the most bushfire-prone areas in the world. Residents of the Blue Mountains region are typically a resilient lot, respectful of their surrounds and fiercely attuned to protect it. 

Blue Mountains and Vanuatu

Beth Mercieca grew up among these ranges. The youngest of three, she was a cheeky, self-confessed nature girl. ‘I feel like I always lived outdoors. I was always dirty,’ Beth reveals. ‘Life was fun and there was always plenty of activity.’

A lot of the action young Beth experienced was on the building sites of Blue Eco Homes, the award-winning, industry-respected business run by her parents, Joe and Merylese. For the Mercieca family, the development of their business was personal. With a child in the family suffering from asthma, and the environmental extremes and vulnerabilities of their Blue Mountains surrounds, they saw the need for quality custom-built homes that are sustainable and healthy.
 
Young Beth Mercieca with her dad Joe
Beth growing up in the Blue Mountains

Beth’s basic understanding of building developed organically. At the age of 16, she would take a big leap forward towards her future career by accompanying her builder father overseas to a remote island off Vanuatu for a working ‘holiday’. After devastating cyclones in the region took place, Joe and Beth joined with other volunteers to build strong cyclone-proof structures, including a school, for the locals. Throughout their stay, the crew lived with the villagers and earnt their admiration and respect in the process. 

It was Beth, however, who made the most impact. After Joe hurt himself, she took over and directed the builds. The island chief approached Joe, saying: ‘It’s amazing what your daughter has done. We’ve been trying to create equality in our community for so long. Every man, woman and child are talking about her.’

Beth recalls the moment well. ‘I was taken aback because I never thought about the impact that could have on people. So, it was just phenomenal.’

Brushes and hammers

Always the inventive kid, she decided her career path should follow her passion at the time, horror films. After studying makeup artistry, Beth spent a few years working on film sets, creating special-effects makeup.

Despite this creative career move, Beth could not help but feel a strong connection to what her parents were striving to create with their business. Whether it was the curiosity to do more, or the sawdust in her veins, she started a carpentry apprenticeship in 2019, working mostly on passive house projects. 

Looking back, Beth recognises that these two unique professions have similar traits. ‘There are so many aspects that mirror each other,’ she says. ‘Both require pure creativity, but you also have to plan, organise, communicate and take on hard work.’
Beth helping build cyclone-proof structures in Vanuatu
Her first career move was creating special-effects makeup

Creating change

Beth’s apprenticeship, she soon discovered, led her into not only a challenging career, but a chance to make a difference. Her work ethic and motivation to be part of positive industry outcomes has her actively involved in committees and working groups, as well as mentoring and speaking on trade careers.

Her highlights include working with high school students, encouraging them to take up a trade. ‘I especially want to encourage anyone who falls into being a “non-traditional” member of the industry,’ she says.

Beth’s commitment to creating change has not gone unnoticed. In front of more than 500 people at the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian Housing Awards in May, she was awarded the national title of 2023 HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice. The judges, in commenting on what makes Beth outstanding, referenced her dedication to her craft, ability to build meaningful relationships through exceptional communication, her commitment to safety and problem-solving ability, as well as her level of competency well above her apprenticeship level. 

‘It’s so incredible to be recognised for the work I'm doing – for the advocacy and everything I'm putting into it,’ says Beth. ‘That’s a real justification for the hard work.’ 

Deep impact

One of her best skills is the ability to make clever decisions quickly. ‘I’ve always worked in, or been part of, fast-moving work environments,’ she says. ‘Even when I was in high school, I was managing a local restaurant. This gave me a different way of looking at things and of finding efficient solutions.’ 

Beth is currently running a certified passive house project, while under supervision, which just shows her level of competency and skill. She says it’s important to her to be recognised for her work on its own merit. ‘I don’t want people to think of me as a female in the trade but recognised for the work I’m doing. For so long, I was known as “Joe’s kid”!’ she says, laughing. ‘While I’m so proud of what my family does, it’s exciting to pave my own way. I want to make a difference.’

And what about the impact she had all those years ago in the Pacific? Rumour has it, there are several young village girls who were named after the inspirational Beth, who made an impact then, and will surely continue to do so in the future. 

To follow on Instagram : @chickenchippybuilds @blueecohomes

Beth's apprenticeship has led her into a challenging and satisfying career
Beth celebrates her win with her proud parents Merylese and Joe

Apprentice award winner

Beth Mercieca of Blue Eco Homes was presented with the 2023 HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice award after being recognised for her outstanding ability far above her apprenticeship level. Driven to contribute, she is currently involved in a range of activities and groups to promote the building industry. 

This includes giving talks to schools about trades through Inspired Futures and acting as a role model and mentor to young people considering a trade career. Beth is also the Chair of the HIA NSW Building Women Working Group and a member of the HIA NSW Training, Membership & Professional Development Committee.

 

Stratco's commitment to developing the professional tradespeople of tomorrow is more important than ever.
Michael Stenhouse, Stratco Group Learning &                                                Development Manager 

Partnering with industry

Proudly sponsored by Stratco in 2023, the HIA Jim Brookes Australian Apprentice Award celebrates the achievements of future tradespeople in Australia. 

‘As one of Australia’s largest manufacturers and marketers of building products for the housing and home improvement industries, Stratco understands how important professional tradespeople are to the housing industry,’ says Michael Stenhouse, Stratco Group Learning & Development Manager. 

‘Apprentices play a crucial role in our industry’s future success – a success which Stratco is committed to, as demonstrated by our partnership of HIA Apprentice programs for over 15 years, both at a state and national level.

First Published on 26 June 2023

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