Carpenter Colin Willmett knows firsthand the benefits of working in a trade and he hopes to encourage more Indigenous students to pursue an apprenticeship.

A descendant of the Waanyi and KuKu Yalanji Aboriginal peoples, Colin said his path to the front of the carpentry classroom happened by chance.

"My first role at TAFE Queensland was a contract carpenter working on the original infrastructure build of the Acacia Ridge campus. Once this was completed I joined the TAFE Queensland Infrastructure Team and I was later offered a teaching position. Initially, I didn’t think I had the qualifications to be an educator, but I gave it a go and completed a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116)," Colin said.

Fast forward 13 years, Colin said he loved passing on his carpentry knowledge.

"I like teaching and I always enjoy coming to work. The best thing about being a teacher is the variety of work and the different personalities that you meet along the way. I really enjoy the social interaction with my students and the other teachers."

Colin also enjoys sharing his Aboriginal culture with his students.

"I used to teach international students who were all such great fun in the classroom. I often shared my cultural background with them and in return, I enjoyed hearing about their culture and why they decided to study in Australia. On graduation day, one of my Chinese students bowed to me in front of the whole audience and gave me a gift - that brought a tear to my eye and was lovely," he said.

Colin said being a strong role model was also important to him.

"I always make myself known to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students who come through carpentry. I see myself as a mentor to those students and I enjoying watching their progression closely. Sometimes the students find it easier talking to me knowing that we share a similar background."

"I’ve taught a number of Indigenous students in Certificate III in Carpentry (CPC30211) and Certificate I in Construction (CPC10111) and we’ve bonded over our people, our different languages and whether we are desert people or rainforest people. I’ve always mentioned that it would be awesome to have more Indigenous tradespeople."

Colin said he would also like to see more women join the trade, with females making up just one per cent of the carpentry workforce.

"I remember one female apprentice who was a straight-A student. Her practical work was fantastic, her bookwork was perfect and at the end of her training on her last day, she came to me and some other teachers and personally thanked us. Months later we received a letter from her updating us on what she had achieved since she finished her apprenticeship - that was really special and I still have the letter."

There are strong employment prospects for carpenters, with JobOutlook predicting solid future growth.


More about carpentry and joinery

Information for apprentices and trainees

Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

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