Australian Career Paths: The Ins and Outs of Being a Tradie
Becoming a tradesman is looking more and more attractive these days, mostly because the economy is picking up and there’s a demand for these types of services. But, don’t let the name fool you. Being a “tradesman,” or “tradie” isn’t just reserved for men. Women are getting in on the action too. Here’s what it all means and how to hook yourself up.
What’s A Tradie?
A Tradesmith, or “tradie” as they’re called, is a profession where you learn how to do some sort of manual labour. This could be an electrician, a mason or bricklayer, stone mason, carpenter, construction worker, or a similar trade. Trades are always distinguished from other professions in one respect: they utilize a system of “master/apprenticeship” training over formal classroom education.
This system is largely vocational, though there can be formal instruction by a group of masters. Most of the training is “on the job,” with very little theoretical knowledge being imparted. Tradesmiths learn by actually performing their craft, and they get exceptionally good at it.
But, in Australia, some jobs require that you have something called a “white card.” You can get a White Card by attending formal classes or through organizations like White Card Express. Without one, you won’t be able to enter a construction site, so this could be vitally important if you work on commercial job sites as a carpenter, electrician, mason, or something else.
Salaries vary in Australia depending on the job you have and your experience. An electrician, for example, can start out at $20 per hour, with an average annual salary of $41,000. Some companies pay bonuses, which will affect your salary. Median income is $29 per hour, with the upper range salaries stretching into the $40 per hour tier.
This means you could make anywhere between $40,000 and $100,000 or more. Profit sharing with some companies can total $10,000, adding a significant amount of money to your base salary.
Carpenters enjoy similar salary benefits, with the low end of the scale at $19 per hour and the upper range at $41 per hour. Median income is $27 per hour, with total pay ranging from $38,000 to $84,000 annually. Bonuses may range from $0 to $1,000.
If you’re a construction manager, you will make more than if you’re a lead carpenter or a carpenter just starting out in the business. Apprentices make less.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Job duties are generally confined to work in construction or construction-related activities. This obviously depends on your trade and what your supervisor has you doing. But, for carpentry, you’ll be working a lot with wood and building materials.
In masonry, you’re working with brick laying, stone, concrete, and other related materials. This is one of the more technically challenging professions, with masons being in short supply but high demand, since stone and brick make for the sturdiest and most reliable structures.
As a tradesman, the possibilities are wide open. You can enter the field of carpentry, masonry, become an electrician, plumber, metal roofer, construction manager, roofer, project manager, maintenance manager, cabinet maker, baker, butcher, chimney sweep, clockmaker, cooper, glazier, handyman, heavy equipment or machine operator, solderer, tile setter, tailor, tinsmith, blacksmith, goldsmith, jeweller, watchmaker, wood cutter, pipe fitter, mechanic, locksmith, or landscaper.
Of these professions, there are dozens of sub-specialties or related professions. For example, a metal worker may also employ a knife sharpener or anvil worker to help in the shop.
A carpenter may also train a carpet layer. An electrician may employ an HVAC or refrigeration specialist.
Each of these is its own profession and requires extensive training and practice to become proficient in the trade.
This can take upwards of 10 years or more, but the graduation from apprentice to master isn’t a skill-based transition. It’s also not a time-based transition. Believe it or not, the primary barrier to entry into the master level trades is a matter of money.
If you can open up your own locksmithing shop, for example, you can compete with your former employer, the master locksmith who trained you.
Many apprentices do not do this, however, out of a sense of respect. They may, however, advance in the ranks of their employer and eventually take over the profession if and when the master dies or retires.
Some tradesmen work as apprentices their whole life and never advance, however. It’s really a matter of choice. There’s nothing wrong with staying an apprentice, as you can still gain a lot of valuable experience, and your employer can choose performance-based raises to compensate you for your experience. If you want to learn more about tradesmen, you can check out [amazon template=product&asin=B005INHR8C].
Peter Cutforth is an online training specialist in Brisbane. His company Urban E-Learning provides innovative online training mostly in the compliance sector, particularly the White Card construction induction training course.