Shannon Thompson

2018 BBM Trade Scholar – Tiling

I can remember the day as clearly as if it was yesterday when I received the email to say I had been awarded the BBM Scholarship. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

From here my journey began…

London here I come.

Leaving Australia for the first time was daunting yet exciting but after finally settling in from my big move and having seen some of the sights of London, I got stuck into the work side of things.

Ardex’s training academy

On September 12 I headed to Haverhill to start a 2-day course with Ardex a worldwide tile adhesive manufacturer.

Over the two days spent at Ardex’s training academy I learnt with a hands-on experience all about the tiling adhesives they had to offer as well as a wide range of floor preparation materials, with England having a generally colder climate they manufacture a lot of materials to compensate for this which are called ‘rapid set’, this means that it dries in a much shorter time frame allowing you to continue work normally and not having to spend extended amounts of time delaying your job.

Ardex was also kind enough to set me up with a handful of tools to help start my tiling career in the UK.

Arrow Tiling

On September 15 I met Nick from Arrow Tiling for whom I would now be working for the next 6 months.

I spent the first few weeks adjusting to the busy work life of London and the commute on the trains and buses to and from work. It was a massive change from my small hometown of Grafton.

During my time with Arrow Tiling I worked with a number of Europeans employed by Nick which was a great way to learn little tips and tricks that each tiler had that I didn’t know of.

I worked on a wide variety of different jobs all over London with no two ever being the same, ranging from some high end apartment complexes with 30 bathrooms to natural stone residential floors and geometric shaped marble mosaics.

Something completely new to me was the large format tile, one tile being 3m x 1.5m in size and only 6mm thick,  so there is no room for error when it comes to these tiles, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning the method to laying these tiles which offer such a smart and seamless finish.


Unfortunately, some of my other work opportunities had to be cancelled because of COVID, but luckily not all my work was too harshly affected by COVID. With no plans to head back to Australia I decided to stay in London and keep working until it passed, but as the presence of Covid grew thicker, more and more sites were closing down until work came to a complete halt.

We were told to pack up our tools and head home as the site would no longer be open.

With no idea of how long I would be out of work for, I took each day as it came. I was lucky enough to have been with four other housemates during lockdown, the days were spent watching movies, reading books, drawing, doing a lot of house chores and even changing all the carpets in the house and on weekends we would have cocktail and board game nights at home, just to keep things exciting while we were stuck indoors.

I was stuck at home for two weeks when some jobs had opened up where I was able to comply with social distancing and work safely. It was such an eye opener to see London looking like a ghost town. From being jam packed into trains overflowing with people on their daily commute to seeing stations completely barren and trains all but empty was definitely weird to see. I will continue to work in London for the next 2 years and travel around Europe until my visa is up.

Thank you

I would like to give a massive Thankyou to BBM for this life changing opportunity, allowing me to excel in my career while being able to travel and see other parts of the world.

Thank you WorldSkills Australia for encouraging me to apply for BBM Scholarship after placing 1st in the 2018 World Skills Nationals for Tiling.

My TAFE mentor Jenny Frost, thank you so much for going out of your way to help me organising work and other opportunities.

A big thankyou to Nick from Arrow Tiling and the Ardex reps for allowing the opportunity to experience work in the UK.

Thank you to my family as well for supporting me through It all.  I am grateful for where this has brought me to in my life.

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