After working as a head chef for the last 15 years, 34-year-old Rhys Smith decided it was now or never to try something new and make the switch to a career in construction.

I'm at a point in my life where it's now or never if I want to try something different. So I decided to enrol in the Certificate I in Construction (CPC10111) and give this a shot during COVID-19 — and I love it!

COVID-19 was the catalyst, I lost my job and thought 'this is a sign'. I'm at that stage in my life now where this is probably the last real opportunity for a proper career change.

I love working with my hands and that's not going to change. What appealed to me with construction is working outdoors. After working in kitchens and being locked in a box for 15 years, it's nice to be able to get some fresh air.

I felt that I needed to get up to scratch on some basic skills and tools and get a taste for the industry to see whether I liked it or not.

My passion stems from having done renovations myself in the past with my partner and this inspired me to come and do the course. So rather than getting the hired help, I can then do it myself.

I've enjoyed the broad skills that I've learnt throughout the course, like power tools and things I haven't used before. The facilities are A1 and all the equipment is good and maintained well.

We've developed hands-on skills like using fine saws, lots of measuring, using all the electrical equipment, power saws, sanders and even working as a team — it's been great!

With the cubby house we've created, everyone works on an individual item but it all comes together as a team in the end. The cubby house took us roughly four to five weeks but we've been doing other projects as well.

Projects are tailored around what the class is like and what they're into. The cubby house came about as I have a son so we decided to make a cubby house for him. Before this, I know the group did a dog house and that was auctioned for charity. That's great in my opinion as you're building something practical as a team and for a reason.

The process for a cubby house is like building a real house but down to a smaller scale. It's built structurally sound and to the specs of how a real house would be with the framing, flooring, joists and roofing. The build itself is a really practical way to learn as this is the stuff you're actually going to use in the real world. Seeing it all come together on the last day after it's all painted up is great.

My favourite part about studying with TAFE Queensland is the fact that it fits in with my lifestyle outside of TAFE. It's flexible which is very helpful because I still need to work to provide for my family. I'm here three days a week but I'm still working three to four days a week outside of TAFE.

My greatest advice would be, don't be afraid and give it a go. I was nervous coming in thinking 'am I too old for this? Am I going to be in a room full of younger people?' What I found though is that there's a very broad range of people coming to TAFE, so that's been reassuring. Everyone's at different levels but they cater to all different skill levels so it's been a great experience.

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