Friday, 31 January 2014

Flexible Trade Training in a Family Atmosphere at FCTA in Adelaide

As part of our continuing series on trade training organisations in Adelaide, we recently met with Lorraine Baff, CEO of Flexible Construction Training & Assessment (FCTA), to discuss their range of training courses for bricklayers, tilers, solid plasterers and wall & ceiling liners. You can find out more about FCTA by visiting or emailing them at

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FCTA offer training in bricklaying, tiling, solid plastering, and wall & ceiling lining
Flexible Construction Training & Assessment (FCTA) is family-owned and -operated registered training organisation (RTO) in Holden Hill who provide training for apprentices in bricklaying, tiling, solid plastering, and wall & ceiling lining, as well as a range of pre-apprenticeship and short courses. In our time discussing their approach to training with CEO Lorraine Baff, two qualities were very apparent—FCTA take the flexible part of their name very seriously, and an emphasis on creating a family atmosphere is evident in everything they do.

FCTA clearly have a passion for training young (and not so young!) people and setting them on the right path to a career in the building and construction industries. What was especially impressive was their commitment to creating the most effective, flexible learning environment for their apprentices and their understanding of the pressures involved for apprentices in trying to combine working and enhancing their qualifications at the same time. 

“We always do everything we can to be helpful,” Lorraine told us, “and we try to create as friendly an environment as we can. We also do our best to tailor-make training packages to suit apprentices’ particular needs, both in terms of content and also the scheduling of training. This flexibility is helpful not only to apprentices, but also to employers, especially sole traders, and makes it easier for smaller firms to take on apprentices as they can usually undertake their training with us at a time that suits everyone.”

Founded in 2001 by Lorraine and her husband Jim, himself a former bricklayer and TAFE lecturer, FCTA’s aim has always been to match the training they offer with the flexibility that industry requires. To this end, they have full-time trainers on the staff so that they can provide training on demand as well as on a set timetable. This is greatly valued by both employers and apprentices alike, as it means that training can be scheduled around work commitments—for instance, onsite downtime need not be wasted as apprentices can arrange training at short notice.

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The Baff family, who founded and run FCTA, being awarded Best Small Training Provider at the 2008 South Australian Training Awards
This desire to offer flexible training comes as a result of FCTA’s close ongoing links with industry, which involves them regularly discussing with employers the skills they feel apprentices need, and then supplementing FCTA training programmes so that their apprentices can go out into work as fully-rounded as possible. In addition, they also work closely with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to ensure the highest possible standards of training for South Australian apprentices. 

FCTA trainers will also go out and, if possible, offer training onsite when apprentices can’t afford to have time away from the job. This mixture of onsite and trade school training demonstrates FCTA’s commitment to flexible learning packages that are geared to the requirements and time constraints of the building industry. 

Pre-apprenticeship training is also on offer at FCTA, which has proved invaluable for young people looking to enter the building and construction industry. Pre-apprenticeship training is often conducted in small groups at first, which then allows students to discover which trades they are most interested in and suited to before moving on to individual training in that trade. 

“A lot of people who have come to us for pre-apprenticeship training then stay on and do their apprenticeships with us as well,” said Lorraine. “We’ve had people of all ages, from 15 to 50, and from all sorts of backgrounds, and we’ve often been able to place them in work experience when they’ve been with us. Pre-apprenticeship training is valued by industry because it means that when an apprentice starts with an employer, they have some basic skills and knowledge and so are able to adjust to the demands of the work environment more quickly, and are better equipped to make the most of their apprenticeship.” FCTA believe that their pre-apprenticeships courses are also valuable because they give apprentices a higher degree of confidence, which in turn leads to increased retention rates.

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FCTA's training solutions are flexible and designed to suit the industry's needs
The short courses on offer at FCTA, including Contractors Licence courses, are also organised in such a way as to provide flexible learning solutions for as many tradespeople and apprentices as possible. “When you’re working full time, there are a lot of things that can come up and keep you from training,” Lorraine explained, “and so we offer short courses that allow people to upskill or learn something new at times and in ways that can fit around their work schedules. We also design these courses around what people in industry tell us they need and would be helpful.”

A further useful service that FCTA offer is their new smartphone and tablet app, which is a great resource for both apprentices and employers alike because it means they can access information quickly easily, even when they’re onsite. The app provides information on courses, job alerts, as well as a facility to make a request for a trainer to visit a job site.

One of the most notable features about the atmosphere at FCTA is the real sense of a family organisation, and the great care and affection that they have for their apprentices. They are also proud of the opportunities that they have been able to offer people from a wide variety of backgrounds, with Lorraine explaining how some of their greatest successes have been with young people from difficult family circumstances and refugees who have come to make a new life in Adelaide.

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The family atmosphere at FCTA is one of the many qualities that makes their training provision unique
“We believe that if you’re a family business, then you need to treat everyone like they’re family, not like a number,” is Lorraine’s view, and this philosophy is very apparent in the work FCTA do with their apprentices that goes beyond training. They believe that understanding their apprentices’ personalities is as important as being able to assess their trade skills, in order to be able to match them with the right type of employers. In addition, FCTA have an understanding of how hard it can sometimes be for young people trying to get a start in the industry and will always take people’s circumstances into consideration, offering payment plans for their training and maintaining their fees at an affordable level. 

“We hope we can make a difference,” added Lorraine, and it is evident that FCTA’s flexible approach to training is certainly achieving this for large numbers of Adelaide apprentices. To find out more about the flexible learning packages available at FCTA, visiting, email them at or call (08) 8367 5615.

Copywriting for +Cadogan and Hall by +Mark Angus