News

Crafting a life in timber

26 August 2020

It is never too late to make a successful career change. Anthony Di Cristofaro switched careers in his early 30’s when he completed a mature-age apprenticeship in carpentry.

Apprenticeships are good for a career change because they combine vocational education and training (VET) with paid work.

“I walked off my apprenticeship straight into a role. Since then I have been offered jobs without even applying. That had never happened to me before I did VET,” says Anthony.

By the time Anthony had finished his apprenticeship he already had four years’ experience in the construction industry. When he graduated he was offered full-time work building, installing and servicing fire protection doors.

“Before I was working a job that was going nowhere and I wasn’t interested in,” says Anthony.

“VET gave me the chance to do something I enjoy while being able to provide for my family.”

Deciding to switch careers

Anthony started out by going to university to study psychology. But after three years of study in he realised university wasn’t for him.

“Having lost all interest in study and having no idea what I wanted to do, I dropped out of university and went to work in the mining industry for 10 years,” says Anthony.

“But when the boom ended and the jobs dried up, I realised that I was basically an unskilled worker.”

Longing for job security and needing to support a young family Anthony enrolled in a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship.

“I chose carpentry because I find it satisfying to make things with my hands,” says Anthony.

“I wanted to do something I would enjoy for the rest of my life”.

Four years later Anthony had completed his apprenticeship and had collected the prestigious Western Australian Apprentice of the Year award. Anthony then went on to represent his state at the 2019 Australian Training Awards.

With qualifications, experience and awards in hand Anthony had a flying start his new career.

Carpentry skills prove to be handy during COVID-19

Seven months later COVID-19 hit, but Anthony was ready for the challenge

Anthony’s company stopped winning jobs and management called the staff in to discuss possible redundancies.

“I put up my hand for a voluntary redundancy so I could build my wife a hairdressing salon in our backyard,” says Anthony.

Anthony’s wife runs her own hairdressing business and was keen to work at home so she could be spend more time with her kids.

“I did everything: planning, ground works, pouring the concrete, most of the preparation work for connecting power and plumbing to the site, internal and external walls, roof, internal fit out and all of the finishings.”

“Prior to becoming a carpenter I wouldn’t have known how to do any of it,” says Anthony.

The salon is now two weeks off completion and his wife is itching to start using it.

Mentoring younger colleagues

During his training Anthony found younger apprentices sought him out for advice. His employer noticed this and suggested that he sign up with Mates in Construction, a suicide prevention and mental health program.

“I did a one-day training course to become a 'connector' where workers could approach me about getting proper help when they feel low,” says Anthony.

Since doing his training Anthony has helped numerous young colleagues who were in severe distress.

“The fact that they put their trust in me and I was able to make such a positive difference to their lives was very rewarding,” says Anthony.

This experience has inspired Anthony to consider studying to be a trainer, so he can teach and mentor apprentices.

To find VET courses visit myskills.gov.au.

To read more about VET pathways visit the Australian VET Alumni website.