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Hamish Ward – third from the right, back row – with his ‘watch’ on the 16-day Outward Bound BETA course, a programme designed specifically for the construction industry and its apprentices

Canterbury builder remembers and builds on skills learned at Outward Bound

It’s been nearly four years since Cantabrian Hamish Ward scaled cliff faces and jumped into the cold Queen Charlotte waters on his Outward Bound BETA course. Now he’s putting the skills he learned from the experience to build a successful career.


The BETA course is a custom 16-day Outward Bound course that follows the Professional course structure, but is specifically designed to make the experience relevant to the construction industry and its apprentices. The BETA course partners are BCITO, Registered Master Builders and Master Plumbers.

Hamish achieved his spot on the course through winning the Central South Island Apprentice of the Year competition, which is part of the national Registered Master Builders Apprentice of the Year contest. He still works for Leighs Construction, these days as a site manager on large-scale commercial projects. The company sponsored his leave to go to Outward Bound – something he says “demonstrates the sort of employer I work for”.

Hamish says he was challenged both physically and mentally at Outward Bound, but the time away was a really good opportunity to look at his career as a whole, where he had come from, and what he’d like a successful career to look like going forward.

“Physically, the biggest challenge was kayaking, as I’m not particularly fond of being stuck underwater!” he laughs. “However, I sailed a lot as a child and hadn’t done it in years – I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the crew aspect of sailing. Mentally, I sometimes found it difficult working with different sorts of people at varying stages of their lives and careers. It gave me a bit of a wake-up call as to how I was treating some people and taught me to be more inclusive going forward.”

Time management

Hamish says Outward Bound also taught him how to manage his time better and to plan in more depth, especially with days that see him managing 50 to 100 people onsite.

“I have to make sure each team has the right information, tools, equipment and material to do their jobs successfully. By doing the in-depth planning, it means I’m doing a lot less ‘putting out fires’ and a lot more checking of quality, which means each phase of the build progresses well and we’re not going back to fix things. I can turn my phone off at a sensible time and get a good work-life balance. Outward Bound made me realise that I was using time as a gauge of performance – which it isn’t.”

Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs says that since joining the company, Hamish has been on a “tremendous journey” – from newcomer and then apprentice to a Future Leaders programme and now site manager on an important government project.

“The Outward Bound BETA course has been an important part of Hamish’s journey and has provided him with some great additional skills and experience which he is using to build his successful career.”

Skills vital to success

For young apprentices and their employers, Hamish recommends Outward Bound as a place that promotes versatility, resilience and teamwork.

“For any tradespeople I would recommend going on an Outward Bound course. It takes you out of your usual comfort zone and forces you to adapt to challenging situations which develop skills vital to success in the construction industry. It also makes people think about their place within the industry and their professional behaviour, and how they can improve on their performance.”

Two years ago, Hamish and his wife chose to move out of the city and into a rural community in Amberley. They live on a 16 acre lifestyle block, a place they decided would be a more suitable environment in which to start a family.

“My time at Outward Bound also gave me the opportunity to look at living a bit more sustainably and be part of something bigger than just ourselves,” he says. “Living in Amberley does this. I ‘give back’ by volunteering for the local fire brigade. And I love being close to mountains and the ocean. I have a great work-life balance.”

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