Simon left school at the end of Year 11, to become a welding apprentice. However, it wasn’t his first experience welding – at 14, his Dad enrolled him in a welding course.
“My dad’s a rouseabout – you know, clearing up after shearers? He was doing a welding course, as he’s a farmhand, and thought I may as well do one too. Turns out I was pretty good at it”.
At 16, Simon travelled to Canberra to do a week of work experience, so see if he enjoyed the practical side of welding. In his course, “you just put two little 300 ml rods together. I thought I’d see what it’s like to weld in reality.”
Now, after completing his apprenticeship, he works in the south of Sydney, creating projects for housing. Simon’s job involves fabricating structural steel, pagolas, anything that’s on houses. It’s a mix of workshop and site work: roughly 3 day so the workshop, 2 days on site – starting at 7am, but usually finishing early around 4.
As for his studies, there’s one day a week at TAFE, and the rest of the week on the job.
“I did one day a week at TAFE – with the same holidays as uni and school. So it’s a pretty cruisey sort of a day.”
But TAFE definitely helps with the practical work Simon shares.
“You learn lots of mathematical equations which you do in your day to day work, and use tools you don’t use as frequently – like tools which does rolls in metal or a computer which calculates and folds metal for you. I work in a smaller workshop – so I don’t have access to some of that equipment.”
However, Simon’s also had the opportunity to work on larger structures.
“Once I did an apartment which was ten storeys high. Usually have a scaffold and you have to wear a harnesses. You’re inducted into every site you go on to – and a Green card is the first thing you get. You need it before you can go onto any site.”
Harnesses aren’t the only safety equipment, however, worn by welders.
“In Summer you are meant to wear a leather jacket, which is really hot! Gloves are reasonably comfortable. Helmets are really light – just like wearing a hat. I was lucky enough to start when it wasn’t too hot. I got used to the heaviness - before the heat!” Long shirts are also essential, because you get burnt on occasion. “Having a high pain threshold wouldn’t hurt!” Simon laughs.
But there are always interesting projects to work on. He used to work on a lot of projects for Questacon, in Canberra, “they always wanted cool frames made.” He also once made display case for the Segway bike , he laughs, “the way of the future for motorbikes!”
Some of the more monotonous jobs – such as making 136 handrails – even have their upside: “It’s outdoors! Well, the door is open, and the sun is coming in the workshop!”
And as for finishing his apprenticeship, Simon thinks it’s a great achievement. “Being a qualified tradesman feels pretty cool. Another piece of paper!”
Goals now you’re a qualified tradesman?
I spose I’d like to see what the mines are all about – and see what’s going on there. They have chemical storage and stuff. It’s good to get into the big industries.
The best part of the job?
Knock off time! Nah, it’s always hood to have someone say you’ve done a good job. And you always meet new people, which is always fun.
The hardest part of the job?
Sometimes you need to make curved stuff, or need to make stuff on site and you don’t have much room, which is always a bit challenging.
Most measurements come in drawings, which can be confusing, but other people I’ve worked for just give you the measurements. With the maths – it makes it a bit easier – gets your brain going.
Advice for people entering the industry?
Tell em not to worry about school – get a trade! But then, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of maturity behind you when you’re entering a trade.
It’s pretty easy to enter. Just walk into the workshop and ask for a job. You’ll get one!