A gradual gender shift in plumbing is happening thanks to the Women in Plumbing initiative and to many individual plumbers and plumbing businesses who have taken intentional action over the years....
Big Build Apprenticeships scheme and the investment in major projects, will deliver a pipeline of opportunities for plumbers starting their career. Kathryn Kernohan reports.
Thousands of Victorian apprentices and trainees will get the opportunity to work on some of the state’s largest infrastructure projects, thanks to the creation of a new apprenticeships body.
Apprenticeships Victoria (AV), launched by the Victorian Government in late April, will coordinate and oversee all aspects of the delivery of apprenticeships and ensure apprentices and trainees are better connected with real learning and job opportunities.
For second-year plumbing apprentice Michaela Healy, an Apprenticeships Victoria ambassador, it’s also a chance to encourage other people to choose similar pathways.
“There are so many different aspects to the plumbing industry and through Apprenticeships Victoria, people will get to experience many of them. For me, it is also an opportunity to speak about being a female in the plumbing industry and how we can grow the number of women who undertake apprenticeships,” she says.
Through Plumbing Apprenticeships Victoria (PAV), Master Plumbers has responsibility for recruiting plumbing apprentices on behalf of host employers, providing a diverse range of hands-on opportunities to apprentices kick-starting their careers in plumbing and supplying and issuing the requisite tools and protective clothing needed by employees.
Master Plumbers’ Dale Scott, a Field Officer with PAV, says the major commitment by Victorian Government is in line with the association’s ongoing work to provide pathways for apprenticeships and trainees to get a quality start in the industry.
“A key focus for Master Plumbers is to provide well-supported and well-rounded apprenticeships. A negative experience can turn an apprentice off pursuing plumbing as a career and hopefully we can encourage them to stay in this diverse industry and explore the opportunities available to them down the track,” he says.
As announced by the Victorian Government, the $33 million Big Build Apprenticeships scheme will provide 1,500 opportunities each year for four years to Victorian apprentices and trainees.
Some of the State’s largest infrastructure projects - including the construction of a new Footscray Hospital which will enable around 20,000 additional people to be seen by the emergency department each year once opened in 2025, the North East Link that will connect the Eastern Freeway with the Metropolitan Ring Road and the $20 million Learning and Library Hub at South West TAFE’s Warrnambool campus - will benefit from the newly created opportunities.
A minimum of 10 per cent of construction hours on these major projects will be completed by apprentices and trainees.
“Our job will be to work with major contractors, who in most cases we have existing relationships with, on those jobs. We will supply the apprentice labour give apprentices the opportunity to work on large scale projects, and to gain diverse experience and skills,” says Dale Scott.
“In terms of the money being invested, we haven’t seen anything like this. Opportunities like this don’t always come around, and this is an excellent opportunity for apprentices to get a foothold into this type of work.”
Apprenticeships Victoria is particularly encouraging school leavers and young people to consider a career in the construction industry, and is providing additional support to encourage people who have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and to women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from multicultural communities.
Launching the initiative, Acting Premier James Merlino said “This new body, and our unprecedented investment in major projects, will deliver a pipeline of opportunities for workers starting their career, or reskilling from another industry.”
“A strong skills and training sector is vital to our economy and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic - that’s why we’re backing it with initiatives like this.”
Apprenticeships Victoria is a partnership between the Victorian Government, major project employers, and the TAFE and training system to deliver more job opportunities for apprentices and trainees looking to start a career in the construction and infrastructure sector.
Master Plumbers has long been committed to working with apprentices and employers to provide quality, mutually beneficial pathways and opportunities.
These days, PAV is affiliated with more than 250 host employers across metropolitan Melbourne, who provide their apprentices real-world experience in water, sanitary, roofing, gas and the option between drainage or mechanical services work.
Third-year apprentice Charlie Zhu, who is also an Apprenticeships Victoria ambassador, says that the support of his host employer has given him the confidence to view plumbing as a long-term career option.
“They have been very helpful - anytime I have a question or I need anything, I just ask and they help me out,” he says.
“I have had experience on domestic and commercial jobs and been able to learn so many different things. Having a lot of variety in my work has given me options moving forward which I am very grateful for.”
People interested in learning more about the work of Plumbing Apprenticeships Victoria (PAV) can visit plumber.com.au/pav.