From being an award-winning apprentice carpenter, Christine Mason has exceeded all her expectations by setting up her own construction company by age 24.
Establishing a thriving building business started with the school based ‘Doorways 2 Construction’ (D2C) program, then an apprenticeship through the Master Builders Group Training Scheme with a local small building company, and driving the plan was a young woman’s dedication to achieve.
That relatively short process has taken Christine Mason, of Gawler, from High School to running her own building construction business in under 8 years.
Christine has appeared often ‘in the news’ of the industry as she progressed from Salisbury High School to a Trade Apprenticeship – along the way winning awards including the 2010 MBA Apprentice of the Year Award. As a first year apprentice she even mentored younger D2C students at Salisbury High.
Articulate and with a reputation for being ‘Miss Millimetre’ for accuracy by fellow Tradies, Christine told ‘The Advertiser’ in October 2010 (then apprenticed to John Scheepens Constructions) that she would start her own construction business “as soon as possible”.
Back then she said: “I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by building things and at school I dreamed of building my own house. It will happen and it’s going to be perfect.”
Four years on, she is building homes, but her dream home remains on the drawing board, because running a business comes first. “We have the block of land and the house will come when we have the time and money to make it right,” said Christine.
Christine’s business, established a year ago, is Mason Carpentry & Construction, offering general building work from decks, pergolas, extensions and new house builds and renovations. (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mason-Construction/349941748357324)
Back in Year 11 at Salisbury High, in 2005, trades teacher Richard Megaw saw “something special” in Christine’s work approach and aptitude. Then, and now - he never had a doubt she would become a top skilled carpenter and a “master builder”.
Richard says: “She was totally dedicated and committed to learning from our trades teachers. She was the epitome of a committed student, she knew what she wanted, to become a carpenter and builder and she was never distracted from her tasks.”
From school lessons to self employment…
“I was always intrigued in making stuff and I loved it, always very hands on as a kid building cubby houses and cool stuff and outside doing stuff. I was well advanced at woodwork at school in year’s 8, 9 and 10, and in year 11 I was able to do the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Doorways2Construction program which helped fine-tuned the woodworking skills I had learnt.
“While I was in the D2C program I did a work placement at Scheepens Construction and the owner John was impressed with the range of skills I had from the school subjects – and that was really the start of my apprenticeship,” she said.
Christine says her first employer John Scheepens, influenced her skills development. “He always had the trust in me to do it, he’d say, ‘you do it yourself, you’re gonna learn”. She believes the fact he had five daughters gave her an advantage!
“He kept me running for the whole 4 years of the apprenticeship; I didn’t have any other host employer and even today we still keep in contact.”
Almost two years after finishing the apprenticeship, Christine followed her dream and started up Mason Carpentry.
When asked if she faced struggles as a woman in a construction trade, Christine admits that she chose to work harder on site to show she could do the job - and that attitude rapidly led to referrals from other tradies and eventually future customers.
“I just got straight into it, showing what I could do and get the job done. I figured people would appreciate that and there’s been times that once we got working with other builders, they would request me for their next job which was really thrilling”.
Some advice for women joining construction…
Christine says it is never too late for a woman to get an apprenticeship in the building industry. If you’re at school see your VET Co-ordinator for your nearest D2C program if you’re an older person, starting with a pre-vocational course is the way to go that replicates her start through Doorways 2 Construction.
“Getting involved in a basic course will pretty much show if you are interested in it, and if you want to keep going to learn more. If you don’t want to be on tools for the rest of your life you can always do more studying and this is where the subsided courses the CITB offer help. You can get into administration, management, business ownership but you’ve got that important under pinning knowledge of how things come together on site”.
Christine says her daily motivation is the variation she gets with her work, going to different places most of the time; “I’m not always driving to the same place for year on end, I’m always somewhere new, somewhere different. I’m building something new, I’m getting appreciated for what I do, and just get a kick out of it.”
As a long term goal Christine is considering Project Managing but at the moment feels she would quickly miss being ‘on the tools’ building and creating projects.
Listening to her advisers, Christine has used CITB and MBA funding to support other courses including the Roof Truss and Small Business Management courses, on top of after hours study to achieve Cert IV and the Diploma in Building, before applying to Consumer & Business Affairs to get a builders licence – an achievement she found almost overwhelming
“For the last two years I’ve been studying part time after hours. I’ll leave work and then go straight to the city, having some long days starting at 6am and don’t get home til 9.30pm. But it has been worth it.”
Background: The CITB is an independent industry authority that supports the training and employment of more than 4,500 apprentices and 30,000 ‘construction workers’ across all three sectors of the building and construction industry (Housing, Commercial & Civil). Funds for this training are collected in the form of a 0.25% levy on the value of building and construction work and this is invested back into the industry as training support. CITB-sponsored training is designed by the industry - for the industry. Training takes place in metropolitan and regional areas, is tailored to the needs of specific sectors and delivered by accredited training providers.
Doorways2Construction, or D2C, is SA's premier Vocational Education and Training (VET) in schools program for the building and construction industry. Its success is built on the collaboration between the CITB, schools and the construction industry. It was initiated as a direct response to the increased need to encourage young people to consider building and construction as a career option, improve the entry level training opportunities and promote career pathways and a positive image of the building and construction industry.
- Training: Cert I in Construction in Year 11 & 240 hours of a Certificate III Qualification in Year 12, plus
- Work Placement: 4 weeks for each year minimum (20 days) plus?Career advice, site visits, career talks, plus
- White card: The mandatory construction industry induction card.
Interviews or Information:
CITB’s Acting CEO Adam Warchol, 8172 9500; Christine Mason, 0423 702 960; Media Assistance, Mike O’Reilly, 0414 882 505
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