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High school students build future skills thorugh TAFE NSW Trade Readiness Program

TAFE NSW Wollongong

High school students build future skills thorugh TAFE NSW Trade Readiness Program

A new program is connecting Illawarra high school students with TAFE NSW bricklaying teachers for a taste of a career with a long history and a fruitful future.

Seventeen year 10 students from Figtree High School recently participated in the first TAFE NSW Wollongong Brick and Block Laying, Trade Readiness Program.

The students spent a week bricklaying with TAFE NSW teacher Brenden Hepper. The group put their newfound skills to use and built a barbecue for the school.

Bricklayer and TAFE NSW teacher Brenden Hepper was impressed with the students’ willingness to learn and test their new skills.

“These students were keen, they learned fast, and I’m pleased to say their brickwork was to standard. They also worked well together as a group which is a huge part of being a bricklayer,” Mr Hepper said.

Mr Hepper said the week was a good chance to show the students the hands-on skills of laying bricks as well as to give them a broader understanding of life in the trade.

“We gave them our fun pitch – that bricklayers are paid to get fit and get a tan. Bricklaying is a physical job, but your body gets used to it after a couple of weeks. Let’s just say brickies save plenty of money on gym memberships.

“The boys were also pretty interested in the money. The prices we are getting at the moment, is about $1.50 per brick. On a residential house a bricklayer might lay between 400 and 500 bricks in a day.

“For students considering a bricklaying apprenticeship, there is plenty of work available, I’d get a phone call every week from builders looking for bricklayers. “

“For anyone considering this trade who doesn’t have an apprenticeship, I’d recommend a pre-apprenticeship course. It offers a good head start in brick and block laying skills. “A lot of our students get apprenticeships through that course.”

Year 10 student Jhye Coyle took part in the Trade Readiness Program and has discovered a potential career path. He said he was lost in knowing what he was going to do when he finished school. “I think I know now,” he said.

“I like to work with my hands and I really enjoyed building the barbecue. I hadn’t thought about bricklaying as an option.”

Jhye has been offered work experience with a local bricklayer.

Well known Illawarra bricklayer Ken Tugrul owns City Bricklaying, one of the State’s largest bricklaying operations. He visited the school as part of the program to talk to the students about the industry he loves.

Mr Tugral is a firm believer in starting an apprenticeship at around 16 years of age. He encouraged the students who were considering taking up an apprenticeship to do it sooner rather than later.

He normally employs two apprentices every year but said this was the first year he hadn’t seen an application.

“I put it down to high school students all being encouraged to finish year 12, but that’s not always the right choice for young people. “I think year 10 is the perfect time to get started in a trade like bricklaying.

“I told those students at Figtree High School to call me if they want advice on a bricklaying apprenticeship.

“It’s a great career I love it. I went through TAFE NSW to learn my trade. While I was laying bricks, I also studied clerical works and completed a diploma in building. In November last year I completed the Signature Building in Wollongong, the tallest residential building in the area. This trade really can take you places,” he said.

Figtree High School careers adviser Adam Sargent-Wilson appreciated being able to offer the year 10 students a week of hands-on experience and the chance to hear from people in the industry.

“This gave out students a real taste of what working life is like. They really enjoyed it, the feedback has been positive, and I think 12 of the 17 boys want to become bricklayers.

“It was a week of on-the-job training in which they built an excellent barbecue area.

“They’re very proud of their work and I’m sure they will l look at it for years to come with pride knowing they helped build it.”

For more information about brick and block laying careers and training, visit or call 131 601.

Media contact: Adam Wright, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist.