Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments


Some people just seem to have a natural talent to remodel their home and construct seemingly complex outdoor features, without fuss or struggle. They clearly have a knack for working it out and getting on with the task at hand. While I often aspire to the idea of tackling projects like screeding our verandah floor and transforming the space into a sun room, revamping our sixties kitchen, and building a freestanding greenhouse I must admit I would not know where to start. Thankfully there are contractors who are willing and able to take on these types of jobs. I’m curious however how and where contractors acquire their skills. Also, most trades require lifelong learning to continually expand their repertoire in order to remain competitive.

According to a few artisans I’ve ‘interrogated’ over the years they learned their trade by reading books on the specific topic, first making the undertaking a DIY sideline that is consistently developed, and volunteering their time to gain on-the-job experience. And because they developed a skills set by working with qualified tradesmen or taking a course, they too return the favor by teaching semi-skilled workers to learn by way of observation and on-the-job training.

Life skills

Not everyone has an aptitude to build elaborate projects from scratch or the vision to break down interior walls to create a multi-functional open space. There’s no handbook upon becoming an adult, complete with all the rules one needs to memorize and competencies to perfect. I believe important life skills are learned by way of interacting with experts and taking note of constructive advice. Another sure fire way to learn a new skill is to view online videos that take you through the paces. Taking a course awards you with a certificate that validates your expertise.  

Young adults are under pressure to learn important life skills; in addition they are expected to obtain good grades and work hard to establish a lucrative career, develop attributes that personify success, and demonstrate independence. While most of us strive to satisfy at least some of society’s predeterminations, the older one gets the less we can rely on excuses that imply ignorance and lack of experience. Imagine the reaction of a potential employer when a 30-year old can’t drive a car or has no driver’s license. Say you’re 39, married with children; if you have a remodeling project in mind and do not have a healthy budget to employ a team of contractors, and instead must rely on yourself to do the job, there is no believable way you can claim ignorance. You must either seek help from someone that is skilled to undertake the job [with you as trainee] or muster the courage to go it alone, slow and steady.  Hardware stores or your local Home Depot are your best bet to ask for advice on product choice and best method to carry out the job.

Diverse Learning Options

Did contractors in business today acquire the requisite skills by initially observing a qualified artisan, learn by trial and error or attend a vocational institute? While vocational education and training (VET) empowers people with key skills and contributes positively to employment rates, it also has a substantial influence on global economies. Vocational training is generally for a career in the technical or practical fields and includes a diverse range of careers, such as carpentry, plumbing, manufacture, auto servicing, construction, accounting, food service, hospitality, computer support, dental care, and cosmetology. Graduates are either employed or set up an independent enterprise. Workplace training and re-training forms an integral part of continuously improving workforce productivity.

Enthusiasm to learn

I’m inspired by television programs that take the viewer on a visual adventure. Whether the crew is made up of semi-skilled homeowners or professional artisans, they make it look so easy. Before and after presentations justify the effort and expense. Outdated layouts are miraculously transformed by tearing down interior walls and modernizing newly exposed spaces. It’s quite amazing how a newly tiled splash back can breathe life into a tired kitchen, or a coat of paint can give a room a fresh appeal.  

Outdoor features

People in the know tackle difficult jobs with ease while most of us can only dream of maybe one day finding the courage to take that first step to try our hand at remodeling our home. The same applies to improving outdoor spaces, whether it’s constructing a pergola, building a tree house for the children or a freestanding tool shed. Gardens today comprise much more than a lawn area and a few strategically placed trees; a drab garden is given a face-lift with a landscaped flowerbed, a seating area with a self-contained braai zone and outdoor kitchen, creative walkway, fish pond, pool deck, or my personal favorite – raised beds to grow seasonal vegetables and culinary herbs.

Basic DIY Skills

I admire people who are able to plot and plan a project, determine what materials and tools are needed to do a particular job, and simply getting on with the task at hand.  Everyone should be able to undertake basic repairs or improvements in their home, whether it’s fixing a wall crack, replacing a wall plug, unclog a drain, fit a window pane or re-glue a chair. None of these things are very difficult. Then again, anything is easy if you know what you are doing.

Survival skills

Getting back to important skills an adult in the modern world needs to survive. It’s amazing how many people can’t do the simplest things, including sewing on a button, living below your means and sticking to a budget, cooking basic one-pot meals (if you can read you can cook), drive a car, know basic first-aid, know basic self-defense, change a car tire, start a fire without matches, swim, grow vegetables, and critical thinking.