Kids change you. They really do. You have no concept of how they change you until you have them. And the more kids you have, the more you change. It’s like with any life event, you don’t know how it will affect you until you live through it.
For many women, the moment they have children, something changes in the way they want to approach motherhood and work.
For many of us, going back to work is the only option to make ends meet.
But not all mums want to go back to the same job or career pre-baby. Having a baby often prompts a career change to align with new thinking and values. These can vary from mum to mum and family to family, but in today’s post I wanted to discuss when a mum explores a career-change and considers doing an apprenticeship.
I’ve had a few enquiries lately about motherhood and whether a career in the trades is complimentary? Should mums work in construction? Are their part-time roles available? Should mums be applying for apprenticeships?
I thought I’d discuss all issues as a plumber, mother, and business manager, with the knowledge of the implications of part-time work on a construction business.
Apprenticeship study details
To get a job in the construction industry, you will need to do an apprenticeship, depending on the job skill required. I’ve been asked whether you can study an apprenticeship part-time and whether part-time work opportunities are available.
Depending on where you live, each state has their own policies on apprenticeships, but I’m going to base my article in QLD because that’s where I’m based. Trade apprenticeships can be studied either full time, part-time (minimum 15 hours per week over a 4 week period) or be school based.
Full time and school based apprenticeship roles are most commonly offered. Part-time ones are not or are very rarely offered. I explain why below.
Why aren’t more part-time apprenticeships offered?
Most companies require a full time apprentice because it’s simply what they require for the work they do. Often it’s also the done approach when offering an apprenticeship. School-based apprenticeships are offered on the basis of knowing once the apprentice has finished school, they will be working full-time after completion.
It’s important for apprentices to be on long-term projects, working full time, so they can grasp the full scope of a project from start to finish. The construction industry works to deadlines, while working alongside other trades. I personally believe it’s important for apprentices to work on projects where they work on a job – from start to finish – for the benefit of their knowledge and understanding the sequence of a project. Part-time apprenticeships break up this flow.
For example, a part-time apprentice may work on a job for two days that has a four day installation requirement and deadline. The apprentice is unable to see the project through to completion because of their part-time hours, yet that project must be completed to fulfil the work contract for the client. There is also the weight bared by the employer who is down one worker to get the job done. This is why part-time apprenticeships don’t work necessarily well in some trades.
Where could part-time apprenticeships work in the construction industry?
Part-time apprenticeships can work for trades where jobs can be completed in one day. I think they could be a great market to tap into for maintenance or service trades i.e domestic maintenance plumbers – who don’t want the burden of having to supply work and pay for a full-time apprentice.
Mature age apprentices are valuable employees. From my experience, they are the apprentices that are willing to work hard because a bit of life experience has given them the motivation and passion to complete their apprenticeship. Mothers would come under the mature age apprenticeship class and I believe they are an untapped resource to the industry.
Does a career in construction work alongside being a mother?
We live in an era where flexibility in the workplace is starting to become more accepted, but it’s not necessarily offered unless asked for.
There are many mums who work in the construction industry, but they were either working in the industry pre-kids OR they work in a family run business where there is support. Or they’ve created a business model that supports their family lifestyle. Of course, they’ve got their apprenticeship or some trade experience under their belt in this circumstance.
Pre-kids, I worked full time. I did my apprenticeship full time in my early twenties. After I had Esther, I went back to work part-time with my dad. I couldn’t have gone back to work without support from my family. My mum cared for Esther as the work days varied each week and when I had my Maggie, mum cared for both girls. My dad was the one on call if I couldn’t go out to do the jobs while caring for my girls.
Our working weeks varied, so child care wasn’t an option for me because I couldn’t book certain days as I was working within our client’s time frames.
For commercial work, there is no flexibility on getting the job completed. If a job needs to be fitted off, and your kid is sick, you can’t ring in to tell the builder you can’t show up to work that day. An alternative tradesperson needs to be supplied to fit off the job to avoid the threat of liquidated damages. But dealing with this as a mum can be stressful.
Mums have to ask themselves if the stress is worth the challenge of juggling motherhood and construction work demands. There is no right answer as each tradie mum will answer it differently.
I think the answer lies in building a team that can work with you so that when family life draws you in, there are people in the business who can take over the reigns.
For me, the three-kid- juggle and maintaining a part-time plumbing business wasn’t going to work. And my partner in crime wanted to retire so I didn’t have the support to keep going. Sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves about what we can and can’t handle.
But my story is different to others.
Nicole Cox from The Builder’s Wife is the Business Manager for Fernbrooke Homes which she runs with her builder husband. Nicole is a mum to five children and manages a household, family business and successful blog.
Three Birds Renovations are three mums who renovate houses and are leading the way in showing how it can be done while managing young children.
There are plenty of examples of mums working in trades, making it work for their families, but the biggest key in all of these scenarios is having back-up – or support for when family life requires more.
Advice For Mums Who Want to Get Into a Trade
If you’re super keen to get an apprenticeship, you need to ask yourself whether you can get the support needed to suit the lifestyle.
Young children will require childcare and the apprenticeship wage won’t cover childcare costs. There are scholarships for women wanting to work in a trade that are offered in various states of Australia, to support women wanting to work in the construction industry.
If children are older, will the apprenticeship wage cover out-of-school care?
If you have the support for getting children looked after, will the physical work exhaust you and will you present your best self to your kids? Construction work is EXHAUSTING. It can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting – physically and mentally. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to manage the stress and physical requirements of the job.
Life is all about giving things a go and I wholeheartedly believe, if you truly want to do something, then look into ways of making it work for you. Approach businesses who are offering apprenticeships and ask if they have considered offering a part-time role.
If you’re a construction business, why not see if offering a part-time apprenticeship could work for your business?
I’d love to hear what you think? If you run a trade or construction business, have you considered offering a part-time apprenticeship? How would it impact your business?