The first woman to complete a waterproofing qualification at Melbourne Polytechnic's Epping campus, Kawaljeet Kaur is ready to start up her own business in the construction industry.
Kawaljeet’s study success in the Certificate III in Construction Waterproofing CPC31411 brought her career path back full circle. Back in India, Kawaljeet’s father was a civil engineer and she knew from an early age that she wanted to work in a similar industry, so she started her studies in architecture. But life took a detour; a move to Australia, raising a small child, a Diploma in Childcare, and some challenges finding work that molded to her lifestyle. Just as Kawljeet found her footing in a playground facilitator position – restrictions and lockdown started and she was once again reevaluating her career options.
An opportunity arose that saw her spend some time with a friend who was a waterproofer. This sparked a whole new interest and Kawaljeet decided to take the first step by enrolling in the course at Melbourne Polytechnic.
It soon became obvious to her teachers that Kawaljeet was an outstanding student in her class and she is now looking forward to establishing herself in an industry she already loves.
‘It was a great journey at Melbourne Polytechnic and I hope it will change my whole life,’ she says. ‘I’m going to start my small business as a waterproofer; I had a dream to start my business from a long time ago and I’m looking forward to being successful in my future.’
‘The first day I found it really challenging but slowly I felt like “this is amazing”, it’s a very fun way to do work and my trainer was very helpful,’ Kawaljeet says.
‘My teacher has been a very good mentor and motivator for me. My other classmates were very nice to me so I never felt like I am the only woman in this class and it is hard. It was not like that. It was a very friendly environment.’
Construction waterproofing teacher Stephen Grech says: ‘What was really impressive is she's really good at it. She was definitely my best student, in terms of her application skill, her ability to listen to instructions and execute the application to a high standard. The other guys in the course were supportive as well, they had no hesitation to say “Wow, look at her work, it's so much better than us”.
‘What impressed me with Kawaljeet is from day one, a lot of students when they ask for help I'll be showing them and they'll pretty much just let me complete the task and sit back, whereas Kawaljeet would watch me for a minute and she would interject and say “can I have a go?” She wasn't afraid to try something new and I think that's what a lot of people need to do. With new changes to the industry and working practices around lockdowns and restrictions, students need to reinvent themselves. She's been able to reinvent herself in the space of three months.’
Waterproofing is essential to all construction, preventing water from plumbing and roofing sites from seepage and leaking, thereby deeming the site ‘waterproofed’. Attention to detail is paramount. Kawaljeet learned and practised the processes and techniques used in industry and found seeking faults and working out defects rewarding.
Stephen says the 14-week course, run day or night, is included in the Free TAFE initiative. Waterproofing companies contact Melbourne Polytechnic when they are looking for staff as this career path is in high demand and even during restrictions or lockdown (Government advice pending). Work can continue on new building sites that are not occupied.
It’s a good trade to start off with in construction, because unlike plumbing, electrical or carpentry you do not need to do a three-year apprenticeship. With waterproofing you can start work straight after the course.
Kawaljeet found work through the course but decided to start her own business. She’s been encouraged and motivated by her nine-year-old son, who has offered to help her make a logo for ‘Kmax Waterproofing’.
‘I have a dream that I will go to the highest possible position in my business and do a lot of good in this industry. I want to use my experience and my skills, I want to achieve success in my field.’
And her advice for anyone thinking of taking a chance and reinventing themselves?
‘Find something you love to do and push your comfort zone and own it. Stand up and just do it. There is no time to consider ‘this is not the right time’. You can do anything you love to do, at any time’.