Bega Students Inspired by Nigel Croke and ABBTF ‘Try Bricklaying’ Program

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Nigel Croke made a big impression on his 12 students in the recent weeklong Bega Step Out Program, hugely out classing normal school learning sessions, according to Bega High School teachers.  It provided the first opportunity these students had to gain instruction and guidance from someone in the trade and they were absorbing like sponges by all accounts.

“Not only was it a great chance for students to move away from the theoretical study of construction to work with their hands, but having exposure to someone as skilled and as inclusive as Nigel, was just fantastic”, said Jamie Carrett, Industrial Arts Teacher at Bega High School.  “The students loved him because he treats them like adults, learning a new skill.  There was a powerful mutual respect that eliminated any likelihood of behavioural issues over the week.”

nigel_croke-capStudents who participate in Step Out are VET course students in Construction.  The program gives them experience and accreditation points as part of their course and for most, is their first taste of bricklaying and what could become their chosen career.  With students legally required to stay at school until they are 17, (unless they are in an Apprenticeship), the VET course gives them wide experience in a range of trades, and hands-on programs like Step Out are vitally important in building their range of options.  They not only give exposure to a trade, they provide another life experience in relating to a real live tradesperson.  Students were particularly receptive to Nigel’s calm, patient, respectful, non-judgemental approach which builds confidence and enjoyment amongst students who are very much in need of inspiration and leadership, according to Jamie Carrett.

Not all these students will become bricklayers because they enjoyed the week’s program, but some may and for others it’s a very positive contribution to their overall consideration of a construction career.  One very interesting outtake for the student is the testing of his hand-eye co-ordination skills.  It helps to see where the physical strengths are.  Jamie related the story of a very successful young golfer in the group who had amazing hand eye skills with bricklaying – he loved the program but has his sights on pursuing a golfing career.  “You could almost see the student’s minds click over as they ‘got’ the messages about levels and measurements and so on in bricklaying.  It was terrific,” commented Jamie.

At Bega, the plan for the Step Out week was developed by teacher Michael Potter who is an ex-builder.  With his knowledge and experience in the field he was able to design a program that focused on key skills areas.  He split the week’s program into two parts:  one was the construction of a wall for bays for sand etc., integrating as well the competencies of building a slab base.  The second part was building a BBQ area and bench for the school, complimenting the pizza oven built in last year’s Step Out program.


To take full advantage of programs like this, that ABBTF makes available, Jamie suggests that many secondary teachers probably need refresher courses themselves so they can be as informed in creating courses the way in which Bega has been able to rely on Michael Potter’s building experience and knowledge in initiating and designing student courses.  ABBTF would certainly welcome more teacher places being made available in Construction trades, under the current Teacher Development Programs to ensure we mutually maximise the productivity of all of the available resources to encourage students into trade careers.