The Best Thing About Being a Brickie? The Camaraderie
By Ray Goddard, Freelance Assessor
I have many fond memories of being a bricklayer. After a hard day’s graft, there is no better feeling than taking a moment to look up for a while at what you’ve built. Whilst there were some tough days as there are with any job, overall, I spent some of the best years of my life as a brickie and made friends who I still consider to be close with until this day.
I took the usual route into the industry. I started out as an apprentice bricklayer and went through the ranks from apprentice to project manager over the course of 20 years. I have worked on various projects all over the country and capital – a good one that I was involved on and that gets everyone talking, is Ronnie Wood’s swimming pool!
As a young person I really valued the sense of achievement you felt when using brick. Although self-employment and seasonal work can be bumpy terrains to navigate, with the right support and self-belief I was able to keep moving forwards in the best direction.
After working as a site manager for a large brickwork contractor and 22 years of manual work, I decided I needed a change. Assessing was something which piqued my interest as I had plenty of experience working in and with the job roles that I would be monitoring.
I started out as a freelance assessor a few years ago and built relationships with people from across the industry. Last year, I saw that the ABC Assessment Centre was looking for new recruits and I jumped at the chance. I meet a lot of people and likeminded professionals. I truly enjoy my job and feel like I am giving something back to industry and helping people achieve what they want to.
Reconnecting with old friends
As a young person entering the industry, a supportive, friendly face in the form of an experienced peer certainly makes an impact. In 2015 – slightly before my assessing days – I was working as a brickwork tutor for a training initiative called Building Lives, which was a branch of Lakehouse Construction. This programme gave individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to work in the industry, offering them courses, NVQs, assessments and job placements.
The programme proved to be quite popular. During my time as a tutor, I met so many inspirational young people. Alan Bush and Isaac Appiah are two of the programme’s attendees that spring to mind.
Before they attended the course, I’m pretty sure Alan was working in the pub down the road. He just happened to walk in at the right time and made an on-the-spot decision to enrol on a bricklaying course. I’m not too sure what Isaac was doing at the time, but again, he made the same choice as Alan.
In a matter of months, the two of them were working at advanced levels. They were complete naturals; they had the coordination, temperament, dexterity and lightness of touch. Both of them continued to deliver excellent work and were taken on by a large east London brickwork contractor as apprentices.
This was a few years ago now. But I have kept in touch with Alan, who informed me that they are both supervisors running jobs and projects. And to think it all started with walking into a room and enrolling on a brickwork course!
As supervisors they have greater responsibility. They are trusted with sensitive information, have to supervise other bricklayers, give advice and help with heights and measurements.
Whilst I’d managed to keep in contact with Alan, unfortunately, I had fallen out of touch with Isaac. That is until I recognised his name very recently when I was assessing supervisors for their NVQ qualification. It was genuinely one of those penny-drop moments when he rang me. Reconnecting with Isaac and seeing how far he has come truly made my day.
As myself, Alan and Isaac will testify, there is never a dull moment when you’re a brickie. My piece of advice to anyone thinking of entering the trade is to keep at it and persevere – the more you lay bricks, the better you’ll get. You’ll also be able to meet and connect with some inspirational people in the sector. The camaraderie that you build together is quite like nothing else. It’s something that has stayed with me for all these years.