Generations of Bermudian construction workers have built their careers by learning on the job.
But if you want to get ahead of the game more quickly and efficiently, Simon Tully argues you can’t beat certified training.
Mr Tully, the president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, said companies could also boost their workforce by taking advantage of certification opportunities.
“Bermuda is a DIY school,” Mr Tully said.
“People say, ‘I didn’t go to school for it, but I can do it.’ A lot of the trade skills are picked up as you learn in Bermuda. But because many workers don’t have any certification, it’s hard to separate what people really know and what they don’t know.”
Bermuda College provides courses in trades such as electrical wiring, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
However, Mr Tully said many certificate programmes have been so under-subscribed over the years that they no longer exist.
“You need the enrolment,” he said. “That’s why there’s no carpentry course. They need a minimum of five people to make it worthwhile. If they have only had one or two people subscribe to it, what’s the point?
“With some of these trades, there’s no subscribing with any of the courses because they feel they already know how to do it. Carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical trade – that’s where the pushback is.”
But what about those tradesmen who have honed their skills and knowledge through real-life experience?
“Just imagine if he had gone to trade school,” Mr Tully said. “How much quicker and advanced would he be? Whatever he learnt in the past, he would be five years ahead of that.
“If you are learning on the job, you might screw up three or four times and then figure it out. If you go through a vocational training, you are going to know your jobs and do it well, rather than trial and error.”
For workers, certification can mean you’re more likely to get a job – and employers can feel more more confident they’re hiring the right person.
Mr Tully said: “It means you can actually prove you can do the job. You are not relying on circumstantial evidence or somebody vouching for you.
“You can truly go online and say that’s a prospective employee, he’s done a litany of certificates and passed them successfully. That’s what trade certification does for you.”
Mr Tully, the manager of an air-conditioning firm, said when he hires experienced workers he looks for people with a City & Guild certificate. He also gives a chance to newcomers to the trade who have trained on the air conditioning programme at Bermuda College.
“I ask the lecturers at Bermuda College to tell me who is their best and brightest because we need apprentices,” he said.
Another benefit to certified training is that it means you’re more likely to progress during your career – and not still be doing the same tiring jobs as you get older.
“There are guys that I know that are 60 years old and still installing air conditioners,” Mr Tully said.
“They’re laying on their side on dirty kitchen floors, trying to fix a refrigerator. They enjoy what they do, but they are always complaining about their back and knees and stuff.
“In trades, you are out there, there’s going to be some lifting, carrying, no matter what we do.”
One organisation that goes the extra yard to train its staff is power firm Belco.
“Belco have an amazing apprenticeship scheme,” Mr Tully said. “They are knowledgeable. They have got a great platform for teaching.”