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....
Nathan Jarvis wants to ensure the next generation of plumbers have what it take to move the industry forward, writes Kathryn Kernohan.
Nathan Jarvis has always been passionate about the importance of quality apprenticeships to give young plumbers the best possible start in the industry - and he can pinpoint exactly where his interest came from.
“When I was younger, I was lucky to have two bosses who were all about teaching the right way. They were about providing quality work and taking no shortcuts and keeping the customer happy. They had a big impact on me and I try to teach the same things to my apprentices.”
Last year, Nathan joined Master Plumbers’ Plumbing Apprenticeships Victoria (PAV) consultative committee, to take even more of a leadership role in supporting the next generation of plumbers.
“Throughout my time I’ve seen plenty of apprentices get involved in the industry, then run off and do something else, but not really learn the importance of quality plumbing. I’m really happy that I can hopefully make a difference and improve things for everyone involved in the industry.”
Despite the significant impact of COVID-19 throughout 2020, Nathan continued to employ more than a dozen apprentices to support what ended up being increased demand on his business Park Lane Plumbing Services across some areas of work.
“COVID allowed us to have flexibility with our apprentices, it meant we could keep them on for three days and then have four days off. It was important to us to be giving those opportunities during such a difficult time.
“When the first lockdown in Melbourne happened, work dropped off overnight for about a week. But then, with so many people working at home and commercial spaces empty, a lot of clients began to bring planned work forward. We did a lot of work with office spaces, for example, during the months when they were closed down.”
Nathan got his start in plumbing the same way so many others did - through the influence of his father.
“I’m from an era of going to work with dad during the school holidays,” he laughs.
“From when I was young, I always knew I was going to follow in dad’s footsteps and become a plumber. I ended up getting an apprenticeship at the company he worked for at the time.
“He was a mentor to me which was good in some ways and bad in some ways! I definitely wasn’t favoured and I learned to work hard.”
In 2003 Nathan founded Jarvis Plumbing. His business predominately worked with residential clients, including a number of unit development sites.
Eight years later, Nathan became an agent for Rinnai, one of the world leading manufacturers of hot water, heating and cooling solutions. At the same time, he rebranded his business to Park Lane Plumbing Services.
“I got into specialising in Rinnai products and I still have that relationship with them today. It’s been a great relationship and I’ve been very fortunate to have it.”
Park Lane Plumbing Services now provides “roughly a 50-50 split” between residential and commercial jobs including bathroom plumbing, roof repairs and plumbing property maintenance in addition to general and domestic plumbing services.
As Director of his business, Nathan has seen his role evolve from being full-time on the tools to a hybrid role with all that running a business entails.
“It was a big challenge at first, because you grow up on the tools and then you have to put your business hat on and learn about new things. I still try to spend half my time on the tools and the other half dealing with everything else.
“I’m lucky to have some great office staff to help out and make sure things always run smoothly.”
Park Lane Plumbing Services is based in the northern Melbourne suburb of Thomastown, but services all suburbs across metropolitan Melbourne.
Nathan’s team currently consists of five plumbers - the longest-serving of which has been with him for 15 years - as well as three apprentices and three office staff members.
As things continue to return to normal in our post-COVID landscape, Nathan hopes that his role with PAV’s consultative committee will ultimately support others to enjoy longevity in the plumbing industry.
“Giving a great apprenticeship experience to people means they can provide the best quality work and become great plumbers.”
Learn more about PAV and what it can do for your business at plumber.com.au/PAV