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Building Skills - and the Family Business

Building Design student standing in front of an architectural building design
Bachelor of the Built Environment student Luke Hellings

Bachelor of the Built Environment student Luke Hellings is busy building his own environment, taking his newfound design skills home to the family business.

Luke, a third year student ‘went back to school’ to learn the skills the business needed – and master many more. Owners of several caravan parks around Victoria, his family were increasingly building modular homes for retirement villages and holiday accommodation on their properties.

Luke is already a registered builder, having completed his apprenticeship in Gippsland a while ago, and he manages a construction crew. ‘Being a family business we were designing our own homes ourselves anyway because as a builder you can do your own plans,’ Luke says.

Future skills 

‘My father and my mother used to do that, then I grew into the role and started doing it. I knew there was a better way than by hand drawing, so I learned how to do it on the computer. ‘But there was no one in our business that had that skill so I had to go out and find it. I wanted to learn how to design differently and better and learn - and that’s what sent me back to school.’

Luke says the benefits of returning to study have paid off already.

‘Since Year one I was bringing back skills into the business and making our life a lot easier, it’s very beneficial.’ He even sees the benefits of working on projects not at all related to his business.

‘Things that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you weren’t forced to do those sorts of projects, they open your eyes up.’ For example, his final year class is currently working on an apartment complex in South Yarra, and that’s something he would like to do in a few years’ time.

Working together on family projects 

In five years he sees himself running the family business with his twin brother, allowing his father to step aside, although his plans seem to include building apartments in Melbourne as his ‘retirement project’.

Luke appreciate the small class sizes he has at Melbourne Polytechnic, and the support of his teachers. ‘You’re not just a number there,’ he says. He admits that the juggle can be a bit of a struggle at times, but it’s worth it to achieve his goal. ‘I’ve got a job to go back to and I’m trying to juggle that while I’m studying so it’s pretty hard work.

‘Weekends I get the study done, I usually do a 14 hour day on Friday and then I try and do most of my phone calls on the train on the way to school.’ Along with starting in first year, as Luke did, the Bachelor of the Built Environment can also be entered on completion of the Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural).

Northern architecture 

This can give students the equivalent of nine subject credits, which is about three semesters. Head of program Peter Hogg says for school leavers the ATAR requirement is 65. ‘Of the five architecture schools in Victoria, we are the only one in the northern suburbs,’ he says. ‘We are first of all local, we are in the neighbourhood, we engage with issues in the northern suburbs.

‘We’ve got a project we are doing with the City of Whittlesea and we are trying to respond to where we are. ‘We are much more hands on, provide a much higher level of support and engagement with the students.'

‘We will go the extra mile, with small class sizes, high staff to student ratios, and a supportive environment.’

To find out more about the Bachelor of the Built Environment, click here