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The rise of the tradie in ever-expanding Melbourne

Image of skyscraper construction
Construction work in Melbourne

Melbourne is growing at a rapid rate – it seems like everywhere you look now there are roadworks, level crossing removal, tunnelling, major projects, and so much new housing.

It’s a boom time – which means qualified tradespeople are in high demand.

David Delle-Vergin, Melbourne Polytechnic’s manager of trades for the School of Engineering, Design and Construction, says there are currently great shortages in the plumbing, carpentry and electrical trades because so much infrastructure work is happening at the same time.

‘The suburbs all seem to be meeting one another, where there were big parcels of land that were vacant there’s now housing, all melding into the one, pretty much in every direction at the moment,’ he says.

A lot of building = a lot of work 

So it’s definitely a good time to be tradie in Melbourne. ‘There’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of building sites, if you’re interested in making money you can work long hours for usually good rates of pay,’ David says.

‘There are great opportunities, you get a lot of satisfaction in your work because you are building things and seeing the end result and you’ve got plenty of scope to advance from there.

Be your own boss

‘You can  be your own boss, advance in your trade – some people may even enter the engineering field from a trade base, where they might have been at school and never ever thought of being an academic they might end up doing diplomas and advanced diplomas in their field of expertise.’

So the sky’s the limit, and the starting point is securing an apprenticeship with an employer or studying a pre-apprenticeship / pathway course.

Those courses give students the basic building blocks of what an employer is looking for in an apprentice.

‘When they go and look for jobs, they are more attractive to employers because they’ve got all the basic skills and all the building blocks ready to go,’ David says.

‘They’ve got their occupational health and safety understanding, they’ve got some understanding of how to operate tools and they’ve had a bit of practice using their hands and doing some rudimentary measurements.’

Theory to practice 

He says it also gives students something to apply themselves to, as they can see how what they are studying directly applies to what they want as a career, which may not always have been the case in secondary school.

Different trades have different schedules, but in a year a general trades apprentice does about 40 days a year in school, either a day a week or several weekly blocks.

And there is financial reward is boomtown Melbourne right now. As David explains: ‘Young people might not get a hell of a lot of money while they are doing their apprenticeship but as soon as they are qualified they can start making some real serious money.

Set up for the future 

‘What happens is they come out of their apprenticeship in their early 20s and they can really build and set themselves up for the future, so they can build their houses, have their families, really set themselves up.

‘They can pretty much they get to a stage where, once they start wearing out in the body, they can then move to other things and they’ve still got time to do that.

‘That’s if you pursue the trade to the nth degree.’