Blue Collar Scholar Builds a New Career

Constructing a new career as a mature age student doesn’t have to be daunting, as graduate Andrew Wong hammers out his tradie success.

For 38-year Andrew (Hoi Kai) Wong, the journey to a building career has been one he’s been quietly chipping away at.

He’s recently graduated with a Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) at Trade Institute of Victoria and it’s been a study journey he’s incredibly proud of.

While high school Carpentry lessons laid foundations for his future, accounting and business management studies were Andrew’s original pathway. And it was while studying and juggling several jobs that he began to find greater professional satisfaction when he picked up the tools.

Andrew found a sense of satisfaction as he identified carpentry’s “challenges and processes to building something useful that people need.” He knew he needed to take it further with a construction course.

For a kid from Hong Kong, who migrated to Australia at 15 years old, Andrew’s story is not the usual career journey we hear about, however it’s been one that’s been supported and celebrated by his family.

Taking tentative steel cap steps towards tradie success, Andrew expanded his skills on construction sites as a carpenter with commercial building projects around Melbourne.

But he began to feel limited with his opportunities.

“I loved the tasks, but I was looking for better jobs, and improved pay and I just wasn’t qualified enough to be considered.

“I had plenty of business skills and I started to think that maybe I could work for myself in the building industry. But I needed to get some formal training under my belt.”

When Andrew discovered TIV, he was immediately reassured by the course outline and the helpful guidance of the staff.

The multicultural community of the trade school and the welcoming atmosphere sealed the deal. “It was a very happy place to study and you got to know so many other people in your own culture and out of it too.”

Andrew most liked that that “the first lecturer I met was a registered building surveyor – he had a lot of practical experience and I knew that would make all the difference to me.”

While Andrew was no stranger to the books from his RMIT business studies days, he found the first two months hard to adapt to. Lecturer Matt worked through the challenges with Andrew, offering personalised support to navigate his way through each unit. Andrew soon found that he was rocketing through the course.

“My lecturer Matt really took the time to explain things if I didn’t understand it, there were heaps of opportunities to ask questions, and documentation to look back over.”

“I headed to class 2 evenings a week, and the take home learning resources were really straight forward too. I was able to gather a lot of knowledge about terms I hadn’t heard before and how to apply new building skills.”

“English wasn’t my first language growing up, but I picked it up pretty quickly when I moved to Australia and started high school. I felt reassured though to have the lecturers look over my work and help if I was stuck on phrases or misunderstood any instructions.”

Andrew says the units covering Australian Building Standards, health and safety and current building codes really improved his insight into the building industry.

Andrew liked that the staff were able to respond to every question he threw at them, and gave him “practical pathways for my study, for what I could do and what direction might be better for me.”

“There were so many steps to improving my knowledge and the way the course was designed really made sense to me. Programs like Australian Standards and Building Codes were really well explained, and I had some great examples to learn from.”

Constructing a new career as a mature age student is not always an easy task, but Andrew has shown himself and others just how worthwhile it can be. He completed the 16 units of his Cert IV in Building and Construction (Building) within 6 months while still working his carpentry jobs.

Within days of graduating Andrew and his trusty nail gun were sub-contracting to other trades in the building industry.

“I made a lot of contacts during my time studying at TIV so that’s been helpful, and you meet so many other professional trades on the job – it’s been a straightforward process for me to work for myself. But I couldn’t have done it without all the guidance and examples from TIV.”

Motivated by his self-styled mantra “Work hard, get paid, build something,” Andrew should really be producing bumper stickers for his fellow students as inspiration. He’s currently working on an East Melbourne apartment building site and has plans to keep the study steel caps on for a Diploma of Building and Construction.

Talk to TIV today about nailing your own tradie career direction through our Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building).

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