How Do You Become a Builder?

A builder is expected to carry huge responsibilities and manage a team of people. There is a lot of flexibility in this career choice, and you are sure to find something that you enjoy doing.

Full-time Builders usually work Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings. Self-employed or sub-contractor Builders may work longer hours to meet with clients or handle administrative tasks.

Seeing that much of the work is done outdoors, poor weather conditions may reduce work activity at times. Builders generally need to be in good health. A certain level of fitness and strength is required as you will most likely be expected to carry heavy objects regularly.

Builders coordinate the construction of dwellings and other structures while also physically completing projects and adhering to safety standards.

Builder

The Old Way to Become a Builder

Until about 20 years ago and in some areas of Australia even today, the best way to become a builder was the traditional way: to leave school as early as possible and start your apprenticeship. While your mates were still sitting behind desks slaving over their HSCs, you would be making money and gaining the practical experience you needed to become a licensed builder. By the time they finished high school, you would be a skilled builder. By the time those who “foolishly” went on to pursue further TAFE or university studies entered the workforce, you’d be making a good living and have an even rosier future in front of you in a few years when you became a licensed builder and started your own construction company.

The old model still works for some, but Australia has changed. For better or worse, the lack of a high school diploma is now looked on as a sign of laziness, not initiative. What’s more, while happy to hire apprentices as a form of cheap labour, large construction companies are more likely to promote well-educated apprentices than those who have been hardworking.

The New Way to Become a Builder

Before you take the advice of an old builder who may not have your best interests at heart when he encourages you to drop out of school and take up an apprenticeship with him, have a look at some of the online forums and see what others have to say. Start with a search engine question like, “How can I become a licensed builder?” and see what comes up. You’ll get many answers like, “A building apprenticeship is the only way,” but increasingly, a different kind of advice is being offered. Uni students who love to while away their spare time on social media are saying, “I’m working towards a building and construction degree. When I finish, I’ll have a B class builder’s license.” Since most uni students finish at about 21, that’s a pretty good start, but it gets even better.

When you take the university route towards a building license, you may be able to land what’s called a cadetship while you’re still studying. According to some, this is like an apprenticeship but pays much better – up to $55,000 a year. Of course, you’ll probably need to live in a large metropolitan area to find such a well-paying job, and if you’re studying at the same time, you’ll have a heavy schedule, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Let’s say a cadetship is not forthcoming, or you decide to focus on your studies instead. Yes, you’ll probably have your HECS fees to worry about, but consider this:

  • Many graduates report that they get jobs as junior construction managers that pay up to $65,000 per year upon graduation at 21.
  • By the age of 24 or after just a few years on the job, significant salary increases are standard – up to $80,000 per year.
  • By your late 20s, you could be earning over $100,000 per year as a construction manager.
  • Top earners in construction management make up to $180,000 per year.

Of course, construction management is a lot different from actual construction work. If what appeals to you about the building is the freedom to work outdoors and the creative satisfaction from working with your hands, the university route may not be for you. Still, and take this with a grain of salt if you like. If you finish your HSC before you take an apprenticeship, you’ll have many more career opportunities in the future. Don’t forget, too: you won’t be young and fit forever. Construction is essentially a young man’s game, so do yourself a future favour and think about what you’ll be doing in 20 years when heavy lifting isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Why is a Builders Licence Important?

There are 3 reasons why your builder’s trade licence is a pretty crucial document:

  • Only licensed builders are allowed by law to carry out most building work, including extensions and renovations.
  • A builders licence can only be obtained if a builder has proven they have the necessary qualifications to build a structure to minimum building codes and standards.
  • Builders must carry the proper insurances for the jobs they do.

Currently, the administration of trade licensing is still carried out by individual states and territories. While differences exist, there are some qualifications all areas of Australia share in common:

  • Throughout Australia, a builder must prove they have the necessary experience and education. This can be through a combination of an apprenticeship and selected TAFE courses or via an accredited university degree program.
  • Different classes of builders licences are available depending on the nature of the work to be carried out.
  • Builders must provide proof of insurance before they obtain a licence.
  • Licences must be renewed periodically.

Soon, trade licensing is set to become standardised throughout Australia with the National Occupational Licensing Authority (NOLA). For more information, check out our hipages.com.au article, What is NOLA?

What Qualifications Does My Builder Need?

When you get quotes from builders, making sure they hold a current builders licence is your priority. This is the essential qualification your builder will need, but you will still want to know more before deciding on a builder. While their licence indicates that the builder is qualified, it does not guarantee that the builder is the most qualified for you. You also want them to:

  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Good planning and organisational skills
  • Aptitude for technical activities
  • Physical solid ability to handle the workload
  • Decision making and problem-solving abilities
  • Provide you with references.
  • Show you examples of their previous work.
  • Be able to give you a detailed quote that leaves no unanswered questions about the project’s cost or time frame.
  • If necessary, provide you with proof of insurance, including eligibility to receive Home Warranty Insurance (or Builders Warranty Insurance).

Education & Training for a Builder

To become a builder, you usually have to complete a VET qualification in building and construction. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a builder by studying construction management or building at university. To get into these courses, you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English and mathematics, are typically required. Universities have different prerequisites, and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Although each state and territory in Australia has its criteria for qualification as a licensed builder, it is recommended that you start by completing a Certificate IV in Building and Construction, as this is the minimum level of education required by most governing bodies. This course will teach you the basics of the administerial side of being a builder, such as managing finances, reading plans, producing cost estimates and developing schedules for labour and materials.

Building on these principles and more, the Diploma of Building and Construction will give you more valuable knowledge and experience. This course is a requirement in some states, so it is recommended that you undertake and complete this qualification if you intend to work in multiple states as a Builder. For more information on each state and territory’s licensing process, refer to the links in our resource section below and choose the state you are interested in.

Obtain your state-specific licence.

In Australia, anyone who wishes to oversee projects as a Builder must be licensed by the state’s governing body or territory in which they work. Depending on where you want to conduct your business, you may need to complete further study, have a certain amount of money at hand, undergo a police check or gain more specific experience in a particular role. Be sure to thoroughly research the requirements for licensing in your chosen state or territory before applying. Please refer to the resource section below and select the relevant state or territory to find links to the appropriate governing bodies if you would like to know your desired licence criteria.

Additional information

In some states and territories, the builder must either be registered or work under a registered building practitioner’s supervision. To be written, you must have completed training and have relevant industry experience. All those who work in the construction industry must undergo safety induction training and be issued with a Construction Induction Card (CIC). Those with appropriate building qualifications may be eligible to become members of the Australian Institute of Building.

What does a Builder do?

Builder

Builders are trained and licensed to oversee and coordinate construction and renovation projects in either the commercial or residential arena. They are responsible for many different aspects of the construction process, from site assessments and cost estimates to planning permissions and enforcing safe working practices on site. The Builder will hire and coordinate contracted tradespeople, planning and monitoring their tasks to ensure that the work is completed correctly and in a safe and timely manner. They read and interpret architectural plans and ensure that building codes are met and upheld, and maintain order and cleanliness.

Duties & Tasks of a Builder

Builders:

  • Examine and interpret clients’ plans or arrange the drawing of programs to meet building regulations
  • Submit tenders (offers to do jobs at a stated price), quotes or costs for a project to clients
  • Arrange the submission of plans to local authorities for approval and arrange inspections of building work
  • Organise employees and subcontractors to carry out all stages of building and negotiate rates of pay
  • Calculate quantities of materials required for building projects and order these from building suppliers or advertise for tenders
  • Arrange delivery times of materials to coincide with various stages of the building process
  • Supervise the work of employees and subcontractors to ensure buildings are of an acceptable standard and are proceeding according to the contract requirements and program schedule
  • Coordinate the activities of office staff involved in the preparation and payment of accounts
  • Comply with state and federal legal, statutory contract law.

Tasks

  • Consults with architects, engineering professionals and other professionals, and technical and trades workers.
  • Interprets architectural drawings and specifications.
  • Coordinates labour resources and the procurement and delivery of materials, plant and equipment.
  • Arranges submission of plans to local authorities.
  • Implements coordinated work programs for sites.
  • Builds under contract or subcontracting specialised building services.
  • Oversees the standard and progress of subcontractors’ work.
  • Prepares tenders and contract bids.
  • Arranging building inspections by local authorities.
  • Negotiates with building owners, property developers and subcontractors involved in the construction process to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • Ensures adherence to building legislation and standards of performance, quality, cost and safety.

Skills for Success

Builders need to be organised, logical and detail-oriented. Because they oversee many different subcontracted tradespeople, they need to be master problem-solvers with excellent communication skills and a comprehensive understanding of the entire building process. A Builder must be practical and dedicated to ensuring that work is completed accurately, safely and within the time and budget allocated. This requires excellent planning and project management skills, a strong work ethic and good negotiating abilities. A Builder should be physically fit and healthy, quick thinking and decisive, and possess strong leadership and management skills.

Working conditions for a Builder

Builders usually work outdoors and in a wide range of properties, from commercial buildings to heritage-listed dwellings. Builders typically work within a team.

A small-scale home builder might work alongside his crew during the construction of a house, so if you are starting with limited capital, you might need to put in some hard physical work in addition to managing and marketing the company; custom built homes floor plans may not be one of the services you can offer right up front. Not all home builders offer excavating, electrical and heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) services, but nearly all offer structural framing and carpentry services. Specialising in a specific type of home construction, such as retirement homes, log homes or modular homes, is an option for builders in areas where those types of homes are popular.

Gain some experience.

To register as a Builder in any of the states and territories, you will need to have a minimum of 2 years and, in some cases, up to 7 years of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed Builder. This experience can be gained in several ways, the most common being as an apprentice. The amount of experience required varies depending on the state and type of licence you wish to apply for, so please refer to the resource links below to determine your desired licence criteria.

Employment Opportunities for a Builder

Most builders are self-employed as sole proprietors, work as partners in small companies or work as company directors. Builders may specialise in one construction area (such as new homes, extensions and renovations of established homes or commercial building construction). Most work is available in the metropolitan area, although there are some opportunities to work in country areas, particularly in mining activity centres. Due to variations in industry demand, employment opportunities are subject to change. In periods of low activity, builders with a trade qualification may seek alternative employment in their original trade area.

Homebuilders face the same mountain of paperwork as other business owners. However, today’s bookkeeping and construction software programs serve as one-point entry systems for transactions and invoices and record construction material prices to reduce time spent figuring bids. These programs also assist in calculating payroll and in determining quarterly payments. Hiring office staff minimises the time you’ll spend in the office, but you must learn and understand office procedures as a business owner.

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