“When I say to the guys, ‘I know you’ve been up since five in the morning and this is a long day,’ I have credibility because I have done it for many years. I think it’s really important that we have trainers with industry experience and knowledge that they can impart.” This week we talked to long-time carpenter turned #BuildersAcademy training manager Damian Tolson. Check out the gallery for his take on working, teaching and skilling up in building and construction.

Are you in a trade and ready to take the next step in your building & construction career? Builders Academy Australia are running Certificate IV & Diploma level qualifications in Building & Construction that are a stepping stone towards getting your builders license and registration. See our course pages for more information, or call us on 1300 LEGEND to speak to one of our consultants today.

CPC50220 Diploma of Building and Construction (Building)

CPC40120 Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building)

Name: Damian Tolson, 43
Job: Training manager, Builders Academy
Experience: Self-employed carpenter, 20 years experience


“My job is a coordination role out in the field. I allocate trainers, support trainers, and support students. We have about 50 locations that we use across Melbourne and I predominantly work in the south-east, anywhere from Doncaster and the Mornington Peninsula to Gippsland. At the moment I have around 30 classes on that I supervise on a regular basis.”


“My day is mostly in the office. I’ll start at 8 o’clock in the office by checking emails from overnight. Because our classes run until 9.30pm there is normally some stuff that comes over from the night before. I’ll deal with that and then it’s purely reactive: managing class cancellations, student enquiries that the trainer couldn’t take care of, trainer enquiries, resourcing, sick trainers—all of those things. Really trying to bring all the parts together at the coalface.”


“As training manager, I introduce students to the course. I tell them that they are doing something positive and what we are asking of them is eminently achievable. All of those things. I remind them that we are not setting them up to fail but setting them up in a supportive way to succeed.”

“We do everything we can to help. It’s good for the students to know that there is a level of management there that is genuinely interested in what happens in the course. They can send me an email and have a chat. So having a point of contact that is fairly stable. We will advocate on their behalf as well. I advocate for students a fair bit.”


“One thing we try and impart is that no one expects you to know everything, but you need to know where to get the information, so be aware that the information is out there. It’s one of the biggest things that we give them: the answer to ‘Where do I go to get the information?’ As a general mentoring thing in the classroom there are always conversations about ‘What do I need to do to be qualified?’ so we are going to do a mentoring program for guys that want to go on and get their builders licence, help them put their portfolio together and stuff like that.”


“If they have a taste for it I encourage them to pursue a diploma and I encourage them to do their BSB41419 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety with us as well. It’s because I believe that the health and safety is such a huge component of what people do. When they do it they realise what an integral part it plays in what they are trying to achieve. Real practical application.”


“I worked for the YMCA for a number of years and then I wanted to do something different. I got a mature-age apprenticeship in carpentry when I was 23 and got in the industry and it sorta took off from there. I worked as a contract carpenter running my own business for many, many years. And then I went and did a Cert IV—which is the primary product that we offer—and the trainer said I would be really good at training. He said I was knowledgeable and asked if I’d like to give it a try so I hummed and hawed about that, thinking, ‘It’s not really for me’.”

“Then what happened was that I did the diploma and I decided that I’d like to give training a try. The body was starting to get a little sore and all the rest of it—all those usual reasons for blokes wanting to get off the tools. So I started training part time and then it turned into a full-time gig and I came across to Builders Academy.”


“Having a background as a tradie gives me credibility. All of our trainers are qualified and have some kind of industry or vocational experience. It gives you credibility in the classroom.”


“When I say to the guys ‘I know that you’ve been up since five in the morning and this is a long day’, I have credibility when I say that because I have done it for many years. A lot of our students get out of the job around four or four-thirty and then they are off to training and they are sitting out the front waiting for you when you get there at five-thirty. I think it’s really important that we have trainers with industry experience and knowledge that they can impart. It sorts itself out very quickly—the wheat from the chaff.”

“Knowledge is the primary focus. Our students are used to telling people pretty bluntly how things are, they’re not for mincing words. If they smell a rat, if they know that the trainer’s heart is not in it or that they are getting less service than they expect, they will let you know fairly quickly. They’re not at all shy about being vocal.”


“What I want to do is engage them and make them aware of some of the things that they need to be aware of, like legislation, laws, best practice, all of those sorts of things. And give them an idea of what direction the industry is heading in, because the industry itself is forging ahead and becoming more and more professional as time goes on. The old blue-singlet-and-shorts management is gone. It’s over. We need to be more accountable about what we do. Legislation makes us accountable. The industry as a whole is more accountable than it has ever been. So I hope to make them aware of those things.”


“I went from that initial reluctance to do that Cert IV in Building & Construction to this. I had no idea where it was going to take me and that’s the beauty of it. That’s the story I tell to students in the classroom because the first question they ask is, ‘What kind of job am I going to get from this?’”

“I tell them to make the most of the opportunity because building and construction for our guys is an extension of knowledge of what they’ve already got, so we stretch that thought process a little further and formalise the things they already do in their current day jobs by giving them a formal qualification that goes along with that. I tell them: ‘Don’t discount what opportunities will become available down the track so be open minded about how you can use your qualification and employability skills that you’ve got.’”

Legend! Thanks Damian.

For a chat about our Certificate IV and Diploma courses in Building and Construction, give the team a call on 1300 LEGEND. You can also check out all the latest course updates here.