Cawley Grant is a foreman on one of Queensland’s major construction projects – the Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital. Starting his career while still at school, he has worked on several iconic projects and knows better than most where a construction career can take you…

“I was already a second-year apprentice with Lendlease when I left school, so I had a great head start on my career. After school I moved to Brisbane to work full-time on my apprenticeship, and landed a job working on the Magistrates Court. I worked with sub-contractors and tried steel fixing, formwork, temporary carpentry, partition walls and sheeting,”said Cawley.

“After that I worked on the BP refinery in Pinkenba, building a blast-proof laboratory. It was an unusual project where we had to put up heavily reinforced concrete walls that were 300mm thick.

“I finished my apprenticeship working on the new Oral Health Centre at the UQ School of Dentistry, and once I was signed off Lendlease brought me up to the Sunshine Coast to be a Leading Hand on this hospital build.

“Being a Leading Hand was the start of my Foreman training. I installed site accommodation at the start of the project along with the canteen and the walkways. I’ve been here two years and now I’m a Foreman.

“My Dad is a carpenter and he took me to his work one Saturday when I was little. I went up in the crane and was hooked – from that moment I knew I wanted to work in construction. I was always cutting down trees as a kid and using Dad’s drop saw, much to my mother’s horror.

“The transition from school to work was hard at first, no more 9am school starts! Now I get up early and usually get home late. But I’d rather be out on-site than sitting in an office all day.

“I was worried when I first started because you hear the stories about apprentices, but it was fine and I quickly learned to stand my own ground.  At 22 I was telling people twice my age what to do. Learning to deal with people is a real skill.

“The best part of my apprenticeship was earning money, it was great to be earning at that age. I’ve also stayed mates with the guys I trained with. It’s like you’re part of a big team in the building industry – no matter where you work there are always familiar faces.

“The sheer size of this hospital project is amazing. There are so many people on-site and I’ve had the chance to gain a lot of valuable experience.

“Longer term I’d like to gain as much experience as I can and travel around Australia working on different sites, and there are always opportunities to work overseas too. Aussie carpenters are in demand in Europe because of our work ethic.

“Sometimes when I’m driving around with my Dad he points out all the old projects he worked on. You can spend 20 years in an office and not have anything to show for it, but in this job you get to leave a legacy.”