Building for the future

Apprenticeships are a great career pathway. They combine on-the-job training with classroom study to give you the skills and experience employers are looking for. Apprenticeships generally take around 3-4 years to complete, and apprentices earn a salary while they learn.

First-year plumbing apprentice Matthew Nagas knows firsthand the benefits of getting a trade through VET.

After more than 10 years working casually as a labourer, Casino-based Matthew Nagas jumped at the chance to do an apprenticeship through vocational education and training (VET).

“I’d been labouring since I was 16, but I knew I had to get something under my belt,” says the 31-year-old, who was first employed as a plumbing trades assistant by Laser Plumbing and Electrical Lismore in late 2016, then offered an apprenticeship in February 2018.

“In these smaller towns, it can be hard for younger people to try and find work. That’s why I laboured for most of my life – you get stuck in a routine,” he says. “Now I’m looking to the future.”

Matthew is now part of the Laser crew working on the Clarence Correctional Centre project – a John Holland-led project – and is in his first year of a Certificate III in Plumbing at TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour. “I’m enjoying it and learning heaps,” he says.

“Matthew is well on his way,” says Grant Smith, operations manager for Laser Plumbing. “He’s a good worker, as far as his commitment and passion go, and he’s only been rewarded for his hard work.”

Apprenticeships are a proven career pathway – according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 92% of VET graduates who do a trade occupation course are employed after training.

Opportunities for thousands of apprenticeships throughout the state are now also a reality with the NSW Government announcing 100,000 fee-free apprenticeships from 1 July 2018 and a commitment that 20 per cent of trade roles on all its future construction projects will be filled by apprentices.

The Clarence Correctional Centre project falls under the government’s Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program, which seeks to create greater opportunities in construction for local people including young people, women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For Matthew, his partner and their 18-month-old son, the opportunity to live, train and work in the Northern Rivers region is one of many benefits. “When I get my trade, I could even try and start my own business,” says Matthew. “I could help my nephews and their friends. It’d be good to open their eyes to it.”

This story originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Leave a Comment