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Zye builds a strong foundation for success

For Noosa-based builder Zye Norris, 30, undertaking his apprenticeship through TAFE Queensland was just the first step in what is now a successful career. 

For more than 140 years, TAFE Queensland has helped people to change their lives. From supporting school leavers in kick-starting their careers and providing Queenslanders with the confidence and skills they need to pursue their true passion, to helping workers to advance further up their chosen path, the state’s largest and most experienced training provider is responsible for empowering countless students to achieve their goals.

But what happens next?

For Noosa-based builder Zye Norris, 30, undertaking his apprenticeship through TAFE Queensland was just the first step in what is now a successful career. Having grown up with a father who loved to DIY, Zye was instantly drawn to working in a trade, signing up for a school-based apprenticeship in 2010 that saw him work two days a week while attending school the remaining three.

“My dad always used to work on the house on the weekends, so growing up I would ‘help’ him out, which made me realise I had a passion for working with my hands,” Zye said.

Having grown up in a surfing family, Zye’s talent in the water also heavily influenced his career choice, with the sponsored board-rider keen to strike a strong work/life balance early on.

“I would sometimes skip school to go surfing, and I would always see the tradies out there too. The idea of my career working around my lifestyle seemed pretty cool to me,” he laughed. 

Employed by a local construction company, Zye completed his carpentry apprenticeship in blocks at TAFE Queensland’s Nambour campus, becoming qualified in 2014. While it was a challenge at the time, Zye said his experience helped build his confidence in the industry and develop an appreciation for vocational education and training.

“I specifically remember having thoughts throughout the early years of my apprenticeship along the lines of, ‘Why am I doing this?’,” Zye laughed, “But I’m so glad I stuck it out and kept moving forward to get to where I am.

“It was always a great experience to get to work with other apprentices in the classroom and the workshop. At each stage, I left feeling confident that I had learned and understood more than when I’d started there the week prior.”

After seven years working in industry gaining valuable experience on the tools, Zye decided to return to study, enrolling himself in the Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) (CPC40110) at TAFE Queensland’s Nambour campus. Subsidised under TAFE Queensland’s partnership with Construction Skills Queensland, the year-long course provides participants with the skills and technical qualification they need to apply for a Builder – Low Rise Licence and successfully manage a residential building business.

For Zye, it was the logical next step.

“I first took interest in the Certificate IV when a lady from TAFE Queensland came out to our site to visit one of the apprentices that worked for my boss at the time. I quizzed her on it and she emailed me through all of the relevant info,” he said.

“At the time, it was heavily funded by CSQ, which was a huge help for me to get into the course. I did the course online, so I would spend most nights and weekends with my head in the computer.

“When I signed up, I was just eager to learn more and take the next step in the building industry – to expand my knowledge and grow my skills. But the more I learnt and understood, the more the drive to start my own business grew and felt within reach,” he said.

Zye said the course enabled him to meet other like-minded people and mentors, but most importantly, it gave him the push he needed to back himself and start his own business. So at the end of 2023, he started his own business while still working full-time for his former boss, before taking the leap of faith to become fully self-employed at the beginning of 2024.

Zye Norris Building offers new architectural builds, renovations, and extensions across the Noosa area, with the goal of creating beautiful homes for people that fit their lifestyles and desires while being sustainable and utilising functionality.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with clients from the very beginning of their build process. Most people's biggest financial purchase in life is their home, so when you're fortunate enough to get the opportunity to create their homes and work with them throughout the process, it's really rewarding,” Zye said.

“I’ve spent half my life in the trade industry now and have always loved being a carpenter.  The best part of working as a tradesperson in the construction industry is being able to see your projects come to life and being able to take pride in the buildings you've worked on to create.”

Currently Zye employs one other carpenter to work alongside him, but he is already looking forward to the future and is excited to soon take the next step in employing his own apprentice – fostering the next generation of builders while investing in growing and advancing his business.

“It won't be long before I take someone on board and put them through TAFE to develop their skills the same way I was able to,” he said.

“The biggest challenge I feel for me at the moment, is to make sure I find the right work/life balance. I'm definitely not the first and I’m sure I won't be the last to say this, but starting a business–any business–is difficult, and it is easy to get consumed by the workload when you're doing it all yourself.”

That said, Zye is doing his best to achieve his childhood dreams and make both parts of his life work together – with some pretty impressive results. As a competitive surfer, Zye has travelled the world, amassing a following of more than 20,000 people on Instagram and featuring in a feature film by surf apparel company Deux Ex Machina. He continues to surf in local competitions, and now works with professional surfer Julian Wilson for his new brand, Rivvia Projects.   

“I have been fortunate enough that my surfing career has led me to some amazing places and given me incredible opportunities,” Zye said.

“It certainly gets tricky balancing it all at times, but I've been lucky to be able to make both parts of life work together and run smoothly for the most part.”