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Boat builder and repairer

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Summary of occupation

Boat builders construct, fit-out and repair marine vessels - from small pleasure and recreation craft e.g. jet skis through to larger commercial and naval vessels. Boat builders work on all aspects of building new marine vessels - from drafting the initial design; building the frame, hull, deck and cabins, installing engines and furnishings, and painting and finishing the completed vessel. They may also carry out repairs. These workers are often responsible for preparing slipway and building cradles to support vessels during construction, transportation, repair and launching. They may also supervise launching and slipping procedures, and conduct tests to ensure that any launched vessels are operating properly.

ANZSCO description: Builds, repairs and modifies boats (registration or licensing may be required).
Alternative names: Boat Builder, Shipwright
Specialisations: Composite Boat Builder, Rigger (Boat), Sparmaker, Wooden Boat Builder, Yacht Builder
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

Boat builders need:

  • to enjoy practical and manual tasks, to be good at technical activities
  • to be comfortable working at heights and in confined spaces
  • a reasonable level of fitness
  • manual dexterity and a good sense of balance
  • an organised and methodical approach, the ability to multi-task.
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Working conditions

Boat builders often work indoors in workshops or factories; however repair work is also carried out in boat yards, at marinas and other waterfront locations. Workshops and factories can be noisy, dusty environments and some of the building materials used can cause skin irritation or may release noxious fumes - although these areas should be well ventilated. Depending on the size of a vessel and the work being carried out, boat builders may need to work at heights, either on ladders or scaffolding. The inside of some vessels may also be quite confined. Most boat builders work regular business hours, although evening and weekend work may sometimes be necessary to meet deadlines. In Western Australia the majority of boat builders are employed by construction firms, the Australian Defence Force, leisure craft building companies, as surveyors and in firms engaged in building and operating marinas. Self-employment opportunities also exist.

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Salary details

On average, boat builders and shipwrights can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

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Tools and technologies

Boat builders may work with a range of building materials including, wood, steel, aluminium, fibreglass, plastic and/or composites. The specific tools and materials used for joining and finishing will vary, depending on the type of building materials being used and may include saws, drills, sanders, welding equipment, resins, paints and glues. Safety equipment may also be required e.g. overalls, earmuffs, goggles and gloves. Boat builders will commonly use computers and computer-aided design (CAD) software in the early stages of design.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a boat builder you usually need to complete an apprenticeship. The boat repairer/builder, boat builder and repairer (moulding and fibreglass), or boat builder and repairer (wooden boats) apprenticeships usually take 48 months to complete and are available as school-based apprenticeships.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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