Q&A with Mark Bakker – Senior Building Surveyor, Blayney Shire Council
Living and working part-time from home in the Blue Mountains, and travelling once a week to the Central West creates the ideal balance for Senior Building Surveyor Mark Bakker. Mark chats to us about his career journey and why he believes a local government career as a Building Surveyor is the ideal choice if you’re looking for flexibility, diversity of work and plenty of opportunity!
Q. Can you tell us about your career history and what led you to this role in Blayney Shire Council?
A. I started off in local government in my late teens at The Hills Shire Council in Sydney as a gardener of all things! When you get into local government you realise just how many different career options there are. I looked at what the building surveyors were doing back then and thought “wow that’s a pretty good job. You get a mix of office and outside work and its higher paying than gardening!”
So, I went to a Sydney technical college as they were called back in those days, and completed a course for health and building surveyors. I then became a trainee Building Surveyor at Bankstown City Council and my career progressed from there once I qualified.
I worked at other councils, including Lithgow City Council on the edge of the Blue Mountains and also in various metro Sydney councils until we moved out of Sydney in the 2000s to get away from the rat race.
I started at Blayney Shire Council eight years ago. I actually started there to help them out part-time while another building surveyor was on long service leave. But the arrangement worked really well – and that was before working from home was the norm!
Q. How do you balance working from home with the need to be on site at times?
A. The drive to the Central West is only two hours, so I try and make it over every week. When I’m in Blayney I catch up with the team – we’re always talking to each other about different applications. There’s a lot of interaction because we’re a multi-disciplinary team. Although it’s great to be able to talk in person, we all work well using Microsoft Teams or email as well. I think people are more accepting of that these days.
I also do a lot of assessment of development applications and construction certificate applications – the planning and building approval that you’re required to have before you can build a home. With everything being electronic these days, it doesn’t matter where you are!
Q. You mentioned your multi-disciplinary team, what specialities does that include?
A. We have planners, an environmental health officer, engineers, building surveyors and admin support as well.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your role?
A. I really enjoy the diversity of the work I do. We multi-task a lot as building surveyors – we know a bit about planning, we obviously need to know all about the building code, but also about plumbing and septic tanks. So, there’s a wide range of things you have to be across, which can make it challenging but also interesting because of the range of things that you’re working on. And, it’s always intriguing to see people’s homes!
Q. What types of applications do you see in the Central West?
A. That’s also what I enjoy, the range of structures you’re working with. From basic project homes in subdivisions, all the way through to the expansive homes on acreage. There’s a gold mine near Blayney, it’s one of the biggest open cut gold mines in Australia. The mine employs a lot of people and generates a lot of wealth in the area. That means that there’s a wide range of incomes and the housing reflects that. I didn’t get that working in metro Sydney – there’s so much more diversity of work here.
Q. What would you say to someone considering a local government career as a Building Surveyor in the Central West?
A. It’s a great career – especially if you can get a traineeship. You get your university fees paid for, and you’re learning on the job. So, you’re not just learning theory, you’re getting the practical experience as well. It’s a great way to start your career. Yes, studying and working full-time has its challenges, you definitely have to make sacrifices. But it’s worth it in the end.
And in the Central West the housing affordability is amazing, the commute to work is non-existent because you’re living and working in the same town, the fresh air, the climate is fantastic, and I think the people are just more relaxed – it’s a good vibe.
Ready to enjoy a diverse and challenging career as a Building Surveyor? Check out the opportunities available right now