Bricklayer and Melbourne Polytechnic apprentice, Mathew Johnson, spent eight years working the night shift as a baker before deciding it was time for a career change.
After enrolling at Melbourne Polytechnic, he’s enjoying the variety, the freedom to work outdoors and the knowledge that he’s helping people build their dream homes.
After eight years working nightshifts as a baker, 26-year-old Mathew Johnson decided it was time for a career change. “I started labouring for a landscape gardener, doing some paving work, and I just fell in love with it.” After securing an apprenticeship through Brickpro Bricklaying based in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Mathew enrolled in the Certificate III in Bricklaying / Blocklaying at Melbourne Polytechnic. “At the start it was a bit hard. The physical side took a bit of adapting to, it was quite demanding. But after about six months it becomes second nature.”
Now in his third year at Melbourne Polytechnic, Mathew says he is much better suited to life as a bricklayer. “You get to work outdoors and each day is different. You’re never doing the same thing. You can be building a fence one day or working on a unit or garden beds the next. It’s a real mixture.” While Mathew is glad to be off the nightshift, he’s also found bricklaying more financially rewarding. “As a baker you might get $600 a week. But you can get up to $1500 bricklaying and the sky is the limit if you work for yourself.”
He didn’t find it easy to get an apprenticeship at 26, but in the long run his age and previous apprenticeship worked in his favour. “It helps being that bit older. You’re naturally more responsible and mature than the other guys. They don’t realise what they’re doing is for their future. Once you finish school you can’t go back and do it again.” Over the next 12 months, Mathew is determined to fine tune his skills. “I want to become the best bricklayer that I can be.”
Mathew says his time at Melbourne Polytechnic has been fun and the course provided a positive learning environment. “The teachers are amazing. They have been bricklayers for 15 and 20 years so they have the experience and knowledge and they really put the time in with us. Every time I’ve gone to Melbourne Polytechnic I’ve learned something new. You never stop learning in this trade.”
Mathew will finish his course at the end of the year, and is looking forward to continuing his work at Brickpro. “It helps having a good bunch of guys to work with. The most enjoyment I get is from working on houses. You’re building someone’s dream and when you finish the house and the client sees it for the first time, you can tell they’re happy.”
Certificate III in General Construction (Bricklaying/Blocklaying)