Curtis Schumann was standing at the end of a choir when he realised that he had a different tune to follow.
Despite being on the tools since he was old enough to be allowed to, labouring for his carpenter dad and plumber uncle, Curtis never thought he’d end up on a job site himself.
After finishing high school in Forster, Curtis moved to Newcastle, and began a Business degree.
“I never really thought to start an apprenticeship when I was younger, I always had the intention to go to uni. I’d always been steered away from the building and construction industry. My dad was always telling me not to follow his path exactly, so with that in mind I found myself in a business degree and did that for six months before feeling that it wasn’t me.”
Curtis side-stepped, following his passion into studying music. A semester in, standing in a choir, he realised he wasn’t doing the right thing.
“I literally got up and walked out of the room. I walked straight out of the room and had no idea what I was going to do with myself.”
Curtis had done the ‘safe’ thing, and it wasn’t right. He’d taken the bold option, and that wasn’t right either. It was time to think.
“I started talking to a few close friends, one an architect, another an engineer, and a few others in their second year of construction management. I spoke to them about what they were doing and it really appealed to me. I had always looked at building from the tradie perspective, but when I started thinking about it from the project management perspective I really found myself quite keen on the idea.”
It was an idea he put into action. Curtis is now in the fourth and final year of a project management degree, which he is studying by distance while building his experience with the Virtue team as a trades assistant.
“For my degree you have to do 12 weeks of work experience or job-placement, which Mick and Dave are going to sign me off on. But I want to stay with the team, and use my degree in construction management and do more office work, procurement, contract work, administration, surveying, estimating and all of that. I really want to stay with Virtue, because I love working with the guys.”
While the project management side of the industry still obviously appeals, Curtis sees the benefit of knowing all sides of the business. With that in mind, he is currently negotiating with TAFE to see how much of his previous studies can be credited towards an apprenticeship.
“I want to get those skills as well as my degree. Being hands on is always better I think.”
These basic skills will take Curtis back to where he began in the industry as a fifteen year-old — on the tools, doing the hard stuff.
“I was always the guy they would ask to move a thousand bricks to wherever. So I am used to the hard labour, which never really bothered me, because turning things off and focusing on one job was quite good. Looking back, it was actually a really good learning experience.”
Years of absorbed knowledge and experience, dedicated study and a satisfying workplace are all now working in harmony for Curtis.
“Most of the time it doesn’t feel like you are going to work. It just feels like you are going to a place to get something done with a group of people you like hanging out with.”
“Even on days where we have challenges with jobs and all that, I always know that the problems don’t last forever and that with the fellas we will get it done and have fun at the same time, and then move on to the next task. You just have to take the good with the bad.”
While his days standing in choirs may be behind him, that doesn’t mean the music has stopped for Curtis.
“I am writing songs all the time, playing the guitar and singing. I probably have about ten songs now that I have written and recorded myself on my phone! Recording time is too expensive. But music is definitely my passion. I’m still dreaming about a career in music…”