When he started to teach building, the average house cost less than $150,000, dual-flush toilets were gaining popularity and battery-powered tools were a thing of the future.
In that 25 years his career has paralleled the changes in industry, while giving countless students the skills to build homes of their own.
For now, TAFE NSW head teacher of Trades and Technology, Building and Construction at Nowra and Moruya, Ted Clapham, has put his career on hold to spend time caring for his elderly parents.
Thinking back over his career, Mr Clapham said his students would often come in as boys and graduate as men.
“One student in particular who comes to mind was a troubled young fellow. He’s at TAFE NSW as an apprentice and is now making a real success of his career,” Mr Clapham said.
He said he was proud of how the organisation would innovate to stay up to date with changes in industry.
“A good example of our innovation is how we match our machinery to those used in the industry,” Mr Clapham said.
“When I started it was mostly hand tools, then it went to corded power tools, now it’s all battery-powered equipment.”
As housing expands across the South Coast, students of trades and technology are well positioned to take advantage of the demand for skilled labour.
Many of the people now offering employment in the industry, learned their trade through TAFE NSW before starting their own businesses.
On more than one occasion, Mr Clapham witnessed the blending of craftsmanship and academia, as an apprentice graduated, become a successful builder for a number of years, and then moved back into teaching at TAFE NSW.
“It’s a cycle that works well. All our trade teachers come from industry,” he said.
“They bring knowledge, skills and industry connections.”
TAFE NSW building and construction teacher Andrew Faulks is a part of that cycle.
He achieved his dream of becoming a builder after studying at TAFE NSW. He worked in the industry for 15 years before being asked to consider teaching.
“I taught part-time while I was building and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said.
“When a full-time teaching position came up I went for it.”
Despite his teaching schedule, Mr Faulks still holds his building license and is current in the industry.
“I think it’s important the students see that we as teachers are still involved in building.
“We can relate to them better on new techniques, tools or products.
“Also I still have a great rapport with local builders, they’ll often phone and ask if we have a student they could take on as an apprentice.”
Those industry connections were something Mr Clapham said played a big part in helping students get jobs faster.
Mr Clapham, who lives at Barrack Point, is well known and respected at TAFE NSW Nowra and Moruya.
Those sentiments are mutual.
He referred to the staff at TAFE NSW Nowra as “the cream of the crop” of those he had worked with.
Very early in my career I learned that as a teacher you can be very influential.
“I hope I’ve made a difference and done some good in some students’ lives,” he said.