It seriously isn't too late to learn

Graham Smith from Carters Tamaki in Auckland has taken the bull by the horns, starting a new career as a trainee Frame & Truss Timber Structure Detailer – at the more mature age of 59.

Graham Smith at Carters Tamaki

Graham Smith from Carter’s Tamaki in Auckland has taken the bull by the horns starting a new career as a trainee Frame & Truss Timber Structure Detailer – at the ‘more mature’ age of 59.

“I’ve had a wide range of jobs over the years which I’d managed alongside some significant family commitments. After a re-set last year, I faced a ‘what am I going to do for the rest of my working life’ moment. I was looking for something which built on my previous experiences and had the potential to set me up financially for my future. A mate of mine works at Carters and he suggested ‘what about detailing?’ I didn’t even know what it was, but it turns out to be a good match with my skillset and includes many activities I enjoy. I’ll be 60 this year and want to settle into something that will give me a stable career, be intellectually challenging and provide a good salary.

"While training, I am commuting up to four hours a day and working 4 – 10 hour days. It’s a big ask but is worth it. Having a day off during the week compensates for weekends being taken up with grandkids.

"It’s full-on, between the job, commuting, housework and family commitments, keeping up to date with my study and updating my Work Diary can be a mission. When I joined Carters in 2021, I started out prechecking jobs, preparing them for detailing. It requires a good eye for detail which my previous experience in civil engineering helped with. I signed into my qualification in July last year and am happy with my progress – I like the variety and it’s great at keeping my grey matter active! It’s an occupation that incorporates many of the things that I’ve done in my past – and there have been a few!

"Technical Drawing was one of my favourite subjects at school and detailing gives me the same pleasure. Having had more than enough of school by the end of 6th form, and, with School C and UE in hand, I started my working life. First a couple of years on dairy farms. Back then, a Cow Cocky was a jack of all trades. I spent a lot of time in the workshop but wasn’t good at early mornings, so moved on. I went through labouring in a kitset furniture factory, lube and tyre guy in garages, builder’s labourer, had a stint as a cabinet maker and in hardware sales is Australia. I did an NZCE in Mechanical Engineering in the ‘90s and worked part-time for a Civil and Structural Engineer for a decade or so and as a Quantity Surveyor for a while. Along the way I did part-time study for a couple of degrees in Psychology. I’ve been a truck driver, worked in landscaping supplies and operated heavy equipment.

"Working and studying part-time, while looking after family, meant I never progressed far enough for professional practice at any one thing. When my ‘What am I going to do?” moment presented itself, it was a bit too late to go back and do an Engineering degree or another one in Psych.

"So, I’ve settled on Frame and Truss Detailing. Working for a Structural Engineer, the truss layouts that would come across my desk were a bit of a mystery, I would never have guessed I would one day be producing them. I have done a lot of draughting, including producing engineering details and, together with other experience in the building industry, Detailing brings together a wide range of skills and experience that I’ve collected along the way.

"I have always loved the Mark Twain quote, Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Don’t tell the boss but that’s what I’ve found in Detailing. It’s challenging enough to keep me interested, has good income potential, is in demand and I can imagine it seeing me out for my working life."

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