From handyman to registered builder at 53

Today’s story from TIV about former student Boun Kheng Lay is a good lesson in never assuming anything is out of your reach and seizing opportunities wherever you find them.

Boun travelled to Australia from Cambodia as a teenager and worked in various jobs on construction sites, in product management and then as a handyman, a job he worked in all the way up to his late forties.

For eight years, as a handyman, he plastered, painted, repaired thing and did basic maintenance jobs all over Victoria. He always liked working with his hands and often thought about becoming a builder but didn’t know where to start.

“I could speak English well, but my reading and writing of English was not always so good.”

Then one day a friend of his, who also worked with him as a handyman, invited him around to his house to speak with a broker from the Trade Institute of Victoria about some of the certificates and diplomas offered in the building and construction industry.

Having thought so often about becoming a builder one day, Boun’s interest was piqued and decided to check it out.

“He explained it to me how the teaching works and how they had taught many other students from similar backgrounds as me and I thought: ‘Oh well, this might not be so bad.’ So, I decided to try it.”

That single decision helped set his life on a completely different course over the next six years. Though his friend only made it part of the way through his initial training, Boun has now completed five different courses on his way to be a qualified builder, three of those with TIV including a Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) and a Diploma of Building and Construction (Building).

“I thought my English level was going to be a problem, but the teaching was very, very helpful. It meant that they could help me to learn all the terms and all the terminology of the building profession.”

“It was a bit harder because of my English reading but the teachers helped me understand. I thought it would be a lot harder.”

Throughout all of his training, Boun completed his TIV studies at night and continued to work full-time during the day as a handyman, which gave him very little spare time. However, he found the life of work and study was worth it because he was slowly working towards achieving something he’d always wanted.

“If you are interested in something, then you want to do it more. It can be hard to do but it is still good to do.”

“If it is something you really like to do, then it is not that hard and it is worth it in the end.”

But it wasn’t just the end goal that made the work he did at TIV beneficial. He picked up some short-term benefits as well. Because he was working as a handyman while he was completing his studies, Boun was able to get a good insight on how the theory he was learning in the classroom could be applied in practice on a daily basis. The more he learnt the better he felt he was getting at his job and the more he applied the theory in practice the better understanding he was able to develop on the things he was learning.

“It was a good way to learn, because you would read and learn about something and the next day you get to actually do it and see how it works. And the other way around, you can see how it links both ways.”

“It also helps me to know more about what the builders talk to me about on the work site. I know more about the regulations and terminology and what can get done.”

Now after all his training at 53, Boun was able to move on from his job as a handyman and create his own business working as a registered builder in June.

“I have put in a proposal for one job and that is going well, I should hear about that soon.”

Overall, Boun feels much happier about the work he is doing now at the age of 53 than what he was able to do previous to his training and he was just one decision away from seeing it never happen. From a conversation around a dining room table one night after work to owning his own business as a registered builder, he knows how close he came to not finding the path he is on now.

“It was very lucky. I didn’t know I could do it. I didn’t know where to look so I just never did it. My friend, he only made it mid-way but I finished off my training and did my Diploma and other training and now hopefully five-years from now I can work four or five jobs a year. Nothing too stressful, just a good amount.”

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