Trading tools for books

Camo went back to school in his 30’s, and was on the tools and his dream trade in a year.

32 year old Justin ‘Camo’ Camilleri had worked and studied his way through his 20s and 30’s but had never quite nailed what he wanted to do. From stints in transport logistics and restaurant management, Justin was juggling two jobs in landscaping and hospitality when he realised he’d always had a hankering to work in a hands-on role in the outdoors.

While Justin loved the carpentry side of landscaping though, the jobs were hit and miss, and offered no security for this fella from St Albans.

“I really loved making things with wood – building planter boxes and light building but I didn’t know the correct way to do things or even the names for what I was doing.

“I really need to formalise my skills and not just be able to knock up something, but to really know the how and why of it all. I wanted to look more professional, and that meant getting formal skills to see if I could make a full-time career of what this.”

Having hit the short course study books before, Justin was up the for challenges, but he thoughts he “was way too old for an apprenticeship at 31 years old.”

He was so determined, he discovered and signed up for TIV’s Cert III in Carpentry on a Friday and started on the Monday.

“On the first day I was petrified. I thought I’ll never know how to build someone’s house.”

Justin’s news that he was heading off to trade school didn’t come as a surprise to his family, but it was unusual. He is the only tradie in his extended Maltese-Aussie family, and his circle of mates. They’re all used to seeing Justin do his own thing in his own way though, just ask any of them who’ve sat back while he belts out a favourite karaoke tune. ‘Camo’ crooning to Johnny Cash’s ‘Fulsome Prison Blues’ is a well-known sight amongst his crowd.

While he was confident behind the mic, “I never had the confidence in myself that I could build anything, but I really wanted to give it a go.”

Justin found himself at school in Footscray 3 days a week, while working nights as a restaurant manager. “It was a juggle, but I made it work.”

Justin was motivated by the learning style and the outcomes.

“Building a roof from scratch with loads of angles was great. No-one really build them these days and it was challenging. I can call on those skills whenever I need to now.”

By his own admission Justin always thrived in the classroom and enjoyed the atmosphere.

“Walking into the classrooms and seeing names written everywhere, all the terms and correct words and terminology stuck onto walls, and frames – to have that reiterated right in front of you helped you pick up the information alongside what the instructors were telling you.”

Justin said that alongside classroom time, doing his carpentry placement brought a whole other language to learn – I had no ideas what some of the tradies were referring to – they all have their own names and terms for things.”

Justin quickly picked up the lingo, and within a few months he discovered a new passion, building house frames.

“I just loved started with nothing and as your hammering and sawing – there’s this frame – you’re starting the process of someone’s home.”

Justin was enjoying the results so much that he formed his residential house frames business Zareno Homes before his Cert III was finished. He then leapt straight into a Cert IV in Construction and Building while managing client projects during the day. Today he employs 4 staff, including a fellow student.

“Everyone needs house frames, and it’s such great job security. I was even able to employ others to support my contracts while I became fully certified.”

Justin has certainly ticked the job security box, securing subcontracts with professional Melbourne’s design and building companies Porter Davis and Fairhaven Homes.

“When I started with TIV it was easy to see the pathways for future results, and that really appealed to me, I was enrolling in Cert III for 18mths but thinking about Cert IV and what it could mean for me in the future.”

“I knew it would be a slog but holding that trade certificate at the end is a good feeling.”

“I was putting all this pressure on myself for such a long time and had so much fear about what I didn’t know. But it was much easier than I anticipated.”

Justin jokes that in addition to being fluent in singing the blues, he now speaks three languages “English, Maltese, and tradie”.

Talk to TIV today about learning how to speak Tradie, or signing up for our Certificate III in Carpentry.

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