With four qualifications under his toolbelt and a successful building company to his name, Swinburne alum David Vastbinder is using his experiences to give back to apprentices.
David came to Swinburne to study a Bachelor of Business, with a plan to eventually become a builder.
“Construction has always been my passion and my hobby,” he says.
“I thought I’d go to university to get a hold of the management and business side of things first…which is all benefitting me now.”
One of the highlights of his business degree was doing an industry-based learning year at Bosch.
“It was trade-based and in the construction industry, so it was great experience,” says David.
After graduating, David went on to do his Certificate III in Carpentry and Certificate IV in Building and Construction at Swinburne.
“The Cert IV was really beneficial for becoming a builder because you complete practical tasks like estimating and you look into the role of other trades…and what is involved in running building sites.”
All the while, David was a full-time apprentice and running his own building maintenance business on the side.
“A lot of the time I’d leave the worksite at 4pm and then go and do my other business in the evening…then on the Saturday I’d load up on jobs,” he says.
David’s hard work was recognised with the Master Builders Victoria 2015 Apprentice of the Year Award.
“It was a great personal achievement and nice to have that recognition,” he says.
Building a business and a stint on The Block
After studying with Swinburne, David completed a Diploma of Building (Building and Construction) and Diploma of Building (Management) and has now built successful company DPV Construction which specialises in high-end renovations and extensions of period homes.
“It’s an area I fell into…a lot of people aren’t interested in doing it. It’s dusty, dirty, skilful work,” he says.
“You need to have multiple vehicles worth of tools and it’s challenging every day because you’ve got to plough through someone else’s work from 50 years ago and make it compliant and compatible with today.”
“I tell our employees, if you can grasp a renovation, you’ll be miles ahead working on a new build.”
David employs four carpenters and one apprentice, who is currently studying at Swinburne.
He was recently approached to be one of the builders for The Block 2023 contestants Eliza and Liberty for the season airing in August.
“I was really hesitant at the start…but the opportunity was there so we thought we’d take it,” he says.
“We had to do a room a week so there would be up to six of us there for 11 hours a day. Sometimes there’s 20 people in one room, you have to work on top of each other, so there’s no being polite.”
David and the team were the recipients of the first ever Best on Block (BOB) Award which is awarded for a house or room that had the week’s most commendable workmanship.
A helping hand for apprentices
As a student on and off for more than 10 years, David knows how tough it can be for apprentices to make ends meet.
An office clean-out of excess clothing and equipment prompted him to reach out to the Manager of Carpentry and Bricklaying Trades at Swinburne, Jane Clancy.
“I figured Jane would know people who would need the clothing and equipment…I think there are probably a lot of students who are struggling. Whether it’s that they can’t afford work boots or work clothes…these items could help them.”
David is also keen to take opportunities to mentor up-and-coming builders.
“I reached out to Swinburne to see if I could give back to the industry in some way like chatting to the current students and apprentices,” he says.
David now speaks regularly at TAFEs around Victoria, sharing his story and offering advice and tips.
“When I was becoming a carpenter, it was like being in a swimming pool with no lifeguard. You have to make it work.”
“But now I’m the lifeguard on the edge for the carpenters. I’ll throw them a ring but won’t get them out. The only way they’re going to progress is doing it themselves.”
“Carpenters and tradies learn things best by doing it with their hands,” says David.