So you have arrived to Australia all bright eyes and enthusiastic and looking for work, you have a university degree and tons of experience and make an excellent worker, well some news for you, they don’t care. So here you are, another German/French/British guy having been pushed into a job in construction because really unless you have 10 years of hospitality there aren’t that many other options out there for jobs that’ll consider you on a working holiday visa. It’s not all bad though, read on to find out about my own experience in working in construction**.
Why construction work and what money can I expect?
First of all let me explain why I chose to work in construction. Labouring in a dusty and/or hot environment might not be anybody’s cup of tea but if you compare it to other backpacker jobs the wages aren’t too bad. You can easily make $1000+ a week which allows you to save up for your next travels or just for a messy night out with your mates.
Depending on your experience you can expect an hourly rate between $22 (Perth) and $28(Darwin) for labouring. Being a tradesperson you can easily make $30/hr or more. Some companies pay penalty rates which means your earn up to 1.5x or twice that much for working on a weekend or doing overtime (usually begins by the 8th hour you working on that day).
Whilst casual/short-term work has usually the better pay rates plus penalties on top of it, working in an ongoing positon gives you a reliable income and you don’t have to worry about looking for a job every second week. Be aware there are recruitment agencies out there waiving down penalty rates and make your work on a flat rate regardless what day you working or how many hours you perform a day.
What qualifications do I need to work in construction and what is a White Card?
In terms of applying for construction job you must have a ‘White Card’ formally known as ‘Occupational Work & Safety Construction Induction’. It basically ensures you have a common sense and know about hazards and risks on construction sites.
There are 2 ways to get it either by doing and online course or a face-to-face induction in a classroom environment.
Regardless what kind of course you choose, it takes about 3-4 hours to complete it. Whilst the online courses are cheaper (about $40) you’ve to wait another 3-5 days till you receive your white card by post. I’ve done the face-to-face induction which I paid $90 for. You get your plastic card handed out immediately after you’ve completed the course successfully. Useful if you are in a hurry of finding a job or have lied to your recruiter by telling him you got a white card and would send him a digital copy asap.
If you choose an online course make sure the white card you’ll receive is recognized Australia wide, so you don’t have to do it twice when moving interstate.
There are heaps of other tickets and qualifications you can gain to increase your chance of getting hired. The most requested once a forklift licenses. As they are quiet expensive (up to $500) it might be a good idea for people with previous experience in operating forklifts to look into it.
Write a Resume with specific work experience and/or key skills related to the job
Time to write your Resume/CV. However you apply by walking in a recruitment agency or online. They always asking for a Resume. To save you some time or just give you an idea what it could look like you can download a template here and fill your details in.
Where can I apply for construction work?
ONLINE: Look out for jobs on Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au) or in your local backpacker facebook groups. If you gained already some experience, are a skilled worker or your are tradesperson give SEEK (www.seek.com.au) a go where you can find more professional and therefore better paid jobs.
RECRUITMENT AGENCY: There are heaps of recruitment offices in Australia’s major city. The biggest one are ‘Randstad’ and ‘Hays’. A bit of internet research by typing in the city’s name you are in plus ‘recruitment agency’ or ‘labour hire’ should bring up some results. Print out your Resume and go in their offices to sign up with them. If you do so, be prepared to have your TFN, bank account details and passport and White Card (or any other Ticket you got) ready! I prefered those walk-ins as you can leave a good impression and you show your face to them rather than just being a number.
Don’t rely on the recruitment agent too much. Keep yourself on top of the pile by calling your recruiter at least once a week and ask if they got a job for you. The job market especially for unskilled labourers is highly competitive. It’s all about being at the right place on the right time.
By Socialising: The good old fashioned way still works as well. Ask your hostel if they have a job boards. There is usually one in each hostel. Maybe the person behind the reception knows about any vacancies. Talk to your mates in the hostel – what are they doing? Maybe there boss needs another plodder.
What gear do I need to work in construction and where can I get it?
You might have heard or read about PPE when looking for a job in construction. You might ask what PPE stands for. It means Personal Protective Equipment, is essential when you want to work on a construction site and varies for each task you perform. It usually includes but is not limited to Steel Cap Boots, High-Visibility Shirts, Hard Hat & gloves.
Your best places for High-Vis shirts and steel cap boots are ‘Target’, ‘K-Mart’, ‘Big-W’ or any Army Store. Cheap boots start around $30 and high-vis shirts cost $10. For safety reason most sites will only allow working with long sleeve shirts and long pants. Hard hat are usually supplied by your host company. Don’t hesitate to ask if they can get you some.
Keep in mind if you planning on working as a tradesperson it’s common to have your own tools. A good place to look for any kind of tool and tool belts is a hardware store like ‘Bunnings’.
What to do after I get hired?
Just a last advice! Once you have the job and worked a while for your company don’t hesitate to ask for a pay rise after maybe 3 months. Why not – if you’ve performed well and get on with your boss and workmates. Also by that time you might realised how difficult it is to find a job. If the money is good you should consider working longer for that employer rather than going back on the road and ending up as a whiny backpacker complaining of running out of money (I met heaps of them). Keep in mind you can for up to 6 months for an employer when being on your working holiday visa.
Most important point many backpacker unfortunately realise when it’s too late. By staying in a place for 4 months or longer you become a resident for tax purposes allowing you to reclaim your taxes back by the end of the financial year (which runs usually form the July 1st to June 30th).
**full disclosure, I had never worked construction in my life and was hoping to get an engineering job when I arrived.