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May 27, 2019

This university graduate traded in white collar work for a career in hi-vis

It used to be that wearing a white collar symbolised your status, but this craftsman is far happier building Adelaide's most popular bars and restaurants than working the normal 9:00-5:00.

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  • Words: Geena Ho
  • Pictures: Josh Fanning

These days, the expectation is to go to university, get a degree, graduate, then go straight into the workforce with your expensive piece of paper in hand. But now, with the constantly shifting job market and increasing opportunity and awareness of less conventional careers, there may be more to it than that.

CityMag chats with Built By Ben’s Ben Turner, a local carpenter, to gain an insight into the industry.


This article was produced in collaboration with RSEA Safety

After graduating high school in 2004, Ben completed a university degree in urban and regional planning before realising the nine-to-five life wasn’t for him.

“One of the components of that course was a work placement. I worked down at the Alexandrina Council in Goolwa. I thought surfing after work was kind of the best case scenario for that job and, even still, I wasn’t really happy with it. I didn’t enjoy going into an office at 8:30am in the morning and then walking out at 5:00pm at night and you miss the day, not being able to get out and about,” says Ben.

It was only after university that Ben started looking into the trades and fell into carpentry and joinery before starting his own business in 2016. Since then, he has worked on notable fit-outs around Adelaide including Sunny’s Pizza Bar, Shōbōsho, and West in Henley Beach.

Built By Ben owner Ben Turner (right), with Luke Brooks on site at Bank Street Social


“Doing an apprenticeship as an adult is a little bit different than the norm but I think I’ve always kind of had it in me. I know this sounds heaps lame, but I always enjoyed playing with Lego as a kid, I always used to enjoy mountain bike riding, fiddling around with bikes, and stuff with my hands. It kind of dawned on me once I had an office job in my sights that I didn’t really want to be doing that.”

Having taken the long road to a career he’s passionate about, Ben remembers some of the early pressures to pursue a white-collar profession.

“The friends around me and all of my close mates are all white collar workers. They’re all accountants or lawyers or dentists so I guess that’s maybe why I did go into uni originally. It just seemed to be the norm and seemed to be the way to move forward after school.”

Now, many years into his trade, Ben is thankful for each and every day on the job. Instead of facing stigma when sharing his profession with others, he often encounters genuine interest and curiosity.

While most of the people around them don black suits and checked ties to work, Ben and his team wear their bright neon hi-vis with pride.

And the gear looks good too. Workwear and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) has certainly come a long way with online retailers like RSEA making it easy to go from on-the-tools, to on-the-town.

“I don’t advertise and don’t really need to, so I guess, when I’m on site in town, wearing hi-vis is a way of promoting the business.”

“It’s kind of like our uniform in a way. It’s quite comfortable and the boys actually prefer them over the grey t-shirts because they breathe a lot better,” Ben laughs.

Looking back, Ben hopes that more young people are offered a trade as a viable career choice.

“I guess I did originally fall into it but everything kind of happens for a reason I think and it definitely suits my lifestyle. I love it really.”

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