In the wake of the pandemic, workloads have increased as plumbers play catch up and supply shortages and increased costs have compounded the issue. In a recent episode of Master Plumbers...
Shayne La Combre - PICAC & World Plumbing Council.
Daniel: G’day and welcome to another episode of Master Plumbers Radio. Today I’m joined by Shayne La Combre chief executive at Plumbing Industry Climate Action Center or PICAC and chair the World Plumbing Council. So, Shane, thanks for joining us on the show today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Shayne: Well, it’s a great to be here Daniel. Thanks for the invitation, really good to be able to come along. I’m not too sure about talking about myself, but, I thought the usual purpose of this podcast was to build audience, so hopefully I won’t have too much of a negative effect on that. I’m a second generation plumber, so my dad was a plumber. So I had the joy of being able to get involved in plumbing from around about eight years old. It was the fashion in those days to go and help dad if you weren’t playing footy or cricket. So that was all good. So I had an early exposure to what plumbing was about, and probably got involved in it pretty early. So after year 10, sorta had a discussion with the key people at the local high school and we decided that maybe a long term future there wasn’t going suit my present educational needs, so I was fortunate enough to gain an apprenticeship. That was a little more common than it is these days. Back then there was probably a lot of people around that age entering apprenticeship, these days tends to be quite a bit older and certainly finishing VCE is certainly something that I would recommend anyone doing before they enter apprenticeship. And we can talk about that a little a bit later, but that’s probably just a reflection on just how varied and technically advanced the apprenticeship’s become. But back then, a year 10 graduate was good fodder for an apprenticeship.
Daniel: Was it a tech school back then or?
Shayne: It was, but where probably I had the most fortunate outcome was that I got an apprenticeship with the gas and fuel. And those sort of opportunities are pretty much nonexistent today equivalent to what they were back then. If you’ve got an apprenticeship with the Board of Works, the SEC, the gas and fuel, you were really in a position to write your own ticket. So you were really able to determine how far you want it to go and what you want it to do. And if you showed that you had the potential to develop to a head in a particular direction, there was plenty of people I found very keen to support me. And sometimes I wonder whether those kind of support networks are as available today as they were back then, but it certainly was tech school RMIT. Most gas and fuel apprentices headed off to RMIT. We started out with our two week induction course out at South Melbourne Meter shop. And that was fascinating in of itself because that was stepping back into about 1920. That was a fairly old establishment out there. And then, yeah, into the apprenticeship proper at RMIT. And I completed my apprenticeship with gas and fuel and was fortunate enough to be exposed to some of the best gasfitting training that I’ve ever seen anywhere in my travels around the world. Melbourne is a gas city, we have a really high take up of gas per property per kilometer of main, throughout Victoria really. So I was really trained by at that stage, the the only game in town in terms of learning the gas side of the industry, which I always found and still to this day find fascinating and a great field of the of the plumbing area. So the beauty about working with an organization like the gas and fuel was that, you really didn’t have to stay in a particular role for any length of time. There was the ability to sort of move into other areas. So, we advanced through our technical skills. We obviously had to complete the plumbing apprenticeship just like any other plumbing apprentice. We weren’t too bad on the gas fitting, so I’d have to say that, we’d suffer a little bit on some of the other areas. We probably weren’t as strong on some of the welding skills and other areas with some of the other apprenticeships had more of an emphasis. But yeah, gas fitting, we pretty much able to nail. And from the apprenticeship that really just opened up a whole lot of doors for me. Went into the gas servicing side, went into the commercial gas servicing side. So we got into some of the bigger appliances and that’s just a whole other field in of itself. And it’s an area where, yeah, there’s just not enough availability of training those days. That’s why I’m really proud to be able to in conjunction with the Master Plumbers offer the Type B and advanced training at PICAC. But that’s an area where it’d be great to see a whole lot more take up in terms of getting involved in that, those more technical aspects of gas fitting, but in the day that gas and fuel did all that and trained you through. And then from there, we got into the opportunity to get into supervision management. And this is where I think there’s a great lesson for everyone in terms of your career. I think young people today are a lot more geared for career change in my day that was probably less common. You might have even progressed up a couple of rungs. But today there’s a lot of opportunity to develop generic skills to move into a whole lot of different areas in the gas and fuel really promoted that. So I went off to university and did a business degree and I was fortunate enough to also have the opportunity to do a law degree. So, all that was provided by my employer and I was encouraged to follow that through. And that led me into, one of my key areas of interest and that’s looking at regulatory policy and how we kind of construct a regulations to make sure that they do the right thing and we get the best policy and community outcomes. A lot of plumbers probably think regulations is just chairs that are thrown in the way to trip you up. And if you make a mistake, you get a fine. I like to think that a fair bit more thought goes into it than that and that really good regulation when administered correctly really does tackle issues where we’ve got unscrupulous providers ripping off the community, and we’re not getting the outcomes that true plumbers would be committed to providing to ensure community safety and things that we take for granted, like our water supply, our gas fitting, our sanitary plumbing all operate correctly. And any farmer who has been in the game for three minutes knows that there’s a fair bit in getting that right. And if you think you can grab a cordless drill, a folding ladder and get out there and make a go at plumbing, then you just really kidding yourself. And that’s even more so today than ever before. From my perspective, coming from the gas fitting feild, we were always taught that there’s a lot of risk associated with what we do and we need to get it right. Gas fitting is one of those things where a fire or something going bang, that’s the obvious stuff. You get the ventilation or the flueing wrong, something just reaches out at night and kills you in your bed. And I know you’ve been interviewing people about tragedies that have occurred in the past directly arising from problems with gas fitting installations. But today that applies across things like water supply. When I was trained you couldn’t have a tank in a residential premises if there was access to reticulated water in the street, that’s how we dealt with that risk. We just removed it. Now in I guess more enlightened times when we think about, hang on can we get better use of our water? Can we operate more sustainably? And the answer is yes. And plumbing has a tremendous contribution to make to both water and energy efficiency in the build environment, probably more than any other trade in terms of what we can change in terms of the way energy and water is used in a property. When you start factoring those things in, it’s great to see those water savings, but it’s also we’ve also going to want to say that that’s increasing the risk. So the minute we start using tank water, the potential for cross connection and backflow exists. We’ve got to make sure we know what we’re doing and not just take for granted that oh yeah, water flows down hill we’ll keep that pretty straight forward, keep that simple. It’s never that simple in plumbing. And one of the greatest risks to your customers is you not knowing what you’re doing. And you don’t learn what you need to do by just … if you think it can be a doctor boy looking at a couple of articles on the internet or go on down to the jump at the-
Daniel: YouTube. Everything’s on YouTube.
Shayne: That’s right. Yeah, exactly. If you think you can be a plumber, boy watching a couple of YouTube clips or if you used the doctor analogy who would think that’d be a qualified health worker cause they went down to the medical center leaned across the counter and asked the person in reception a couple of questions about medical treatment. No one would make that connection. In plumbing it seems like if you go down to the plumbing supplier and have a chat to him and work out what we need to do-
Daniel: You sorted.
Shayne: You got it sorted. And I just couldn’t caution people against doing that. Couple of reasons. One, there’s just so much risk inherent in getting some of this stuff wrong. Even the simplest job an really cause significant risk. The second thing is it’s not investing in yourself. Why wouldn’t you be thinking about how you can improve your career trajectory? And there’s so much training available now. Certainly PICAC likes to see itself offering a very broad range of training, but the TAFE colleges, there’s a whole lot of avenues and I always sort of facetiously mentioned YouTube, but there are a lot of great avenues open to accessing training that was previously never been available. You’ve got more information strapped to your hip today, in my day you only had a set of encyclopedias in the TV room, that was accessing information when I was going through. You’ve got really an opportunity to access a wealth of information, but more importantly, I think there’s an opportunity for you to move forward and develop yourself. All these changes that are going on around us in the development of the plumbing industry in the main are great. You’re not going to stop them. The question is, how do you equip yourself to be part of that story? And I’m loving the way we’re talking about, for example, hydrogen being introduced as a new green response and can you imagine it’s like we’re talking science fiction that, the excess power that we generate off our PV cells on our roof could in some way be transformed into hydrogen that could be pumped into our gas reticulation system. If you’d told me that story five years ago, I thought look who’s the nut on the loose here. Now we’re talking about an industry that currently doesn’t exist. That could be how we’re going to operate, how we’re going to have better environmental outcomes in terms of how we use energy in the home and in our commercial and industrial applications. That the plumbing industry is going to be looked at to put its hand up and say, well, hang on, we’re going to need you guys in here skilled up working on appliances, working on gas use applications that perhaps we’ve never seen previously in this country. So to be able to do that, yeah, you’ve got to have a certain dexterity. You got to have a certain ability. You’ve got to make a certain commitment to yourself to say, well, yeah, okay. As that rolls out, I’m going to make sure I’ve invested in myself. I’ve got the training necessary and respond. And there’s no reason why a whole industry, as I said that currently doesn’t exist now, won’t be something that’s just the daily work of plumbers.
Daniel: Okay. So you mentioned a lot about training then so PICAC, the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Center is predominantly a training facility and you’re the CEO of that facility. Can you tell us a little bit about PICAC and how it all came about?
Shayne: Yeah, definitely Daniel, where PICAC really originated, goes back to really the drought, what we now call the millennium drought. And that was a significant incident or occurrence here in Australia where pretty much all of mainland Australia in particular but Tasmania as well was in the grip of a drought. There wasn’t really one corner of Australia that was left out of the deteriorating access to reliable water supply. So if you were in Melbourne for example, there was a bit of a sport looking on the front page of the newspapers or even driving down the road and might be a bit of a sign up showing what the current water levels were. And we were all just watching them go down and they got seriously low. I was with state government at the time and we were looking at what are the doomsday responses? What are we going to do if a city like Melbourne runs out of water? Because there’s no precedent to go by. Cities like Ballarat for example, were virtually out of water. You had Lake Wendouree well, the grass that Lake Wendouree, so people would recall the home of the Melbourne Olympics rowing was chest high grass. You could wander out watch out stepping on a brown snake out there. So we were in a really serious position water wise, coupled with that, the state government was also very interested in how we could make better use of water and energy in the built environment. There was a lot of climate change reports coming out, Stern Garner, et cetera. There was a real focus on, was there a way to build better to accommodate better water and energy use. And the answer was yes, but what I think people didn’t really fully appreciate was that the contribution plumbing makes to that equation. So I think everyone got water, we’re running out of water, can we store it better? Can we bucket water out of the shower? People could understand the water equation. We all think people didn’t necessarily make the connection was energy. So, you start thinking about electric hot waters. Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah. There’s a plumbing connection to energy, but then if you’d start looking at the cooling, heating and ventilation of buildings, you’re getting into some of the most significant energy use within the built environment and plumbing once again, front and center in terms of how that energy is used and what we could do differently to work more efficiently. But, when we started looking at the workforce, no one had been trained in those areas. These areas would just tack-ons or let’s look at better energy efficiency. It was sort of like an add on, have someone come in and do a bit of an energy survey or some of the larger businesses more would’ve looked at efficiencies within their manufacturing cycles or operations of their facilities, et cetera. But in the main, particularly the mum and dad users that wasn’t high on the list. But this era really changed that. And so there was a real appetite to look at what was the contribution of the built environment and then realize, well, hey, plumbing is front and center here. How can we introduce far more sustainable practices into plumbing? And that’s where organizations like the Master Plumbers, AMCA, the AMCA, the NFIA, the National Fire Industry Association, Plumbers Union, everyone got together and started saying hey, there’s gotta be a better way of doing this. We started looking at introducing more training into the apprenticeship, but that was going to take too long because bear in mind as I said earlier, we’ve got the water levels decreasing as we’re watching them, right? So we can’t be waiting two and three generations for this skill set to start coming out. So we had to take some pretty significant action. So we had a look around. As I said, I was with government at the time and the industry had come together, had had a look at how training was being delivered in overseas and saw a lot of opportunity to start delivering training that accommodated some of those areas that were really a training gap in the current training availability. So we started out a small building here in Brunswick. Four tilt slab, sorry, tilt slab factories, where we decided to sort of try and put as much plumbing on display as we possibly could. And if you wander around the buildings here in Brunswick, you just see plumbing hanging off every aspect where we could ram it into plant rooms and were all glass fronted. You go into the toilets, this perspex on the wall so you can see the plumbing behind the walls. Every opportunity to expose the plumbing, help people understand how it worked within the building was attempted here at Brunswick. And to a large extent we were pretty successful. So in conjunction, particularly with the work that the Master Plumbers was doing in developing green training, we had a lot of interest in a lot of students going through. And Melbourne got a stage where there’s something like a 20% uptake in rainwater tanks on the property. So you got one in five properties with a rainwater tank previously, no one would have known how to plumb those up, how make sure that they operated safely. Installing it’s one thing, what about the maintenance? What about coming back later when it’s been in place for five years? Is it still safe?
Daniel: The leaves and-
Shayne: The leaves, the mosquitoes, the dead possum floating in the top there’s a whole lot of things that can pose a serious risk. And that’s the thing about plumbing, right? And I know your audience appreciates this more than most. A lot of things we can can time with a contract, or a legal instrument we can say, and I do this, don’t do that. Plumbing has no respect for a contract. If you do the wrong thing on the block, that’s not just the dispute between you and your customer. What can then happen is that risk can break outside the block. If we get a situation where water that’s polluted, adulterated by chemical or pathogen or some other risk, can get the right circumstances that can flow back down into the water supply and pose a risk to a primary school down the hill. And we’ve already talked about the risks associated with things like gas fitting. But you have a look at the Amoy Gardens in Hong Kong. So one person came home from the hospital suffering from SARS. We had dried trap throughout that building and a really shimck mechanical services system, right? So you had, so SARS became a military grade weapon. So we had a plumbing system that could distribute it efficiently throughout the building and the mechanical services ventilation system that was only too happy to do it. So with military grade efficiency, SARS was spread through that building with tragic multiple deaths. That disease would not have spread through that building if those traps had not dried. So if the plumbing had been operating correctly, and there’s a whole lot of reasons why that happened and things have been done to make sure that won’t occur again. But at the end of the day, something as simple as a dry trap contributed to people contracting the disease that they didn’t have to. That’s how fundamental plumbing can be. And that’s why, as we said before, if you really got to understand the risks associated with what you’re doing, because even at the base level, you can cause serious harm. Not only that, most of the people that are using you and engaging you for these services are relying on you to protect them, to ensure that their health and the health of their children and their families are protected by what you’re doing. So we felt, given the importance of all this we needed to ensure that the industry was being trained in the right way, partner with those key stakeholders that we mentioned before and develop a school. And it just took off. So we started delivering a lot of post trade courses. There was a lot of interest in what we’re doing. Then we got asked to do a whole lot of other things, including the safety training that we do here. I’m really concerned about the levels and quality of safety training available in the industry, don’t get me wrong, there’s some organizations that deliver excellent safety training, no doubt about it. Take it seriously, make sure that they’ve got students who are completing their safety training in the full knowledge of what they need to be qualified. But unfortunately there’s a lot who aren’t. And we’re probably coming through an era where there was a lot of disreputable training occurring, not just in construction but across the board, but that could cause really serious problems within safety training. And we saw a lot of examples where some people had a laid claim to having received training but their behavior, the way they were working was inconsistent with that and we started to get really concerned. So safety training became a big focus. The union really instrumental in… We were able to draw on their long history and experience in this area and deliver what we still believe is the highest quality training in the safety sphere. So that became a big part of our delivery remit and you think of something like asbestos. To talk to some of the young people entering the trade about asbestos and have them look at you and sort of say, oh no, that’s been sorted out. No, no, we don’t need to worry about that now that’s been regulations, you can’t install asbestos. And not fully comprehend that as plumbers you’re probably one of the key trades, particularly in renovation and rebuild et cetera. Let alone roofing. Especially the booming renovation being uncovering stuff behind tiles and the floors and even in the old pipes that used to be used it seems to be everywhere. Oh no, absolutely is. And I will have well moved on from my present role before asbestos is out of the plumbing food chain. But the thing is awareness and why roll a dice? Why risk working on something where you’ve rolled the dice and you’re not going to know the result for 30 years? Why would anyone do that? When there’s procedures, if you know what you’re doing. And here’s the thing, asbestos is present probably anyone can see the old, what we call the old fibro cement sheeting the old flues and all that sort of stuff, that’s easy. The lagging, the white powder and everything coming off, pipe lagging and so on. Those sorts of things in plant rooms, et cetera. I think everyone understands that. But as you just said, you start peeling back certain floor tiles, certain glues and certain paints. All these things are likely or potentially contain asbestos depending on their age and their history, but the amount required, so you think, oh, how much is asbestos is going to be in paint. Oh, don’t get hysterical. The tiniest, tiniest, molecule can cause you a serious issue. And not just that, your family. There’s this real tragedies around people who’ve actually come home from work, people who’ve being responsible for washing overalls or clothes that have been covered in asbestos and they’ve ended up contracting Mesothelioma or other asbestos related disease. Who would want that? So this is sort of getting back to your main point that really it all comes back to training. It all comes back to us trying to get to people early enough to say, hey, don’t take those risks. You get onto a job, you’ve priced it, you’ve given the quote. All of a sudden there’s unintended or previously unknown element to that job that’s come up. Your skill in being able to identify that earlier will mean that you’re not going to be misquoting a job or leaving a consumer exposed to risk. And no one wants to be in a position where they’re going to do money on a job, next thing you find yourself involved in behavior that quite frankly is illegal, all because you didn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify that risk. So that was a big area for us at the training center to start focusing on trying to help students be developed in this skillset for that area. The next big thing that happened was that, and it was sort of cruising along in the post trade space, but then a need to deliver fire training to apprentices came up. There was some issues with the then states only deliverer fire spinkler training RMIT and just for whatever reasons and they’re complex and varied. The delivery at RMIT became a bit of an issue and it looked at one stage that training of that nature. Again, essential safety training. No community could be without people qualified in this area. This was a sort of six years ago. Today, no one would question it given some of the recent fires that we’ve had and some of the really serious issues around cladding and so on. And a whole industry starting to look at itself about how we can improve outcomes, but to fall over at the first hurdle where there’s no availability of training for apprentices, for our industry that was just totally unacceptable. So we were able to work with the state government of the day, the fire industry, RMIT has to be said really supportive of relocating the training here to Brunswick. And here in Melbourne, Victoria, we are the only provider of that essential training. So that really then changed our kind of training delivery because I guess we’d focus post trade trying to up the skills, now we were in apprenticeship training and it was a pretty short time after that that then we looked at starting to deliver pre-ap training to plumbers and our plumbing apprenticeship training. And pretty much through our partnership with the Master Plumbers, we deliver that plumbing training which has just gone from strength to strength. So, there probably wasn’t a day that I didn’t come into work where someone was talking about us expanding into a new area and taking over training delivery responsibility. Then following that, we just started to rapidly expand to respond to that demand. We built a school out in Geelong we had an opportunity to merge with a similar industry training operation in Brisbane. So we operate two sites out of Brisbane, and last year we developed we opened a new school to deliver fire training in Sydney. And then following on from that, we committed to build a new school at Narre Warren. Which is-
Daniel: Pretty special I believe from everything that I’ve been reading. Buildings account for 40% of the world’s energy consumption and one third of the global greenhouse gas emissions. As climate change continues to have an impact on the planet, the design and engineering of sustainable buildings has become increasingly significant. In particular net zero energy or NZE buildings are quickly moving into the spotlight. I believe Australia set to have its very first NZE education and research facility built by PICAC at Narre Warren, which you just touched on. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
Shayne: I guess Narre Warren just epitomizes what the PICAC vision is all about. And it’s the next generation. So what we’ve tried to do is always keep our delivery as contemporary as possible. Make sure that we’re teaching the most modern techniques, addressing the most current risks, trying to make sure that we’re not just trying to address where our industry is today, but try and have a bit of a look at where it’s going to be tomorrow and equip people to take up that career option, that challenge. We don’t do it all ourselves and I’ll be the first to say that one of the benefits of being chair of the World Plumbing Council and affiliated with a number of international organizations is that I do get to travel around with other key leaders from our organization to have a look at best practice around the world. And I’m going to be perfectly honest with you now, Daniel, and tell you that if we see a good idea, we steal it.
Daniel: Yeah. It’s the best way to do it.
Shayne: So if someone’s come up with something pretty clever, and particularly if they’re at a scale that we’re not really going to be able to match. So if you look at training and the budgets that are allocated to training in somewhere like North America, USA or in Europe, we’re never, given our population size, going to be able to approach that. They’re in industries that are not here in Australia. So, some of the plumbing required for the semiconductor industry, the nuclear industry, the military industry, the pharmaceutical industry, some of this technology that’s absolutely essential in those industries doesn’t exist here, but what we get is a trickle down effect. So we’re not necessarily equipping guys to work on nuclear reactors, but there’s certain techniques using robotics, using different welding approaches, using different approaches to safety that we can learn from and we can incorporate here in Australia. And then there’s some of the advances that we’ve been able to make here and Australia. So when we look at water efficiency and some of the things that we’ve had to develop in order to live here on the planet’s driest continent. We are all driest inhabited continent at least before people tell me about Antarctica.
Daniel: They have plumbing there too.
Shayne: Yeah. Well indeed. They do.
Daniel: Talking to someone the other day at the apprentice skills competition and it’s a couple of guys there had actually been down there to work. And it was interesting to talk to see something you never really consider, in a lot of places you look around and you wouldn’t even consider the work that goes on behind the scenes. And interestingly enough, we’ll talking to one of those guys for an upcoming edition of the Australian Plumbing Magazine. So keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Shayne: Oh, that will be fantastic. And you make such a great point that, it’s a bit like the healthy human body. You see an athlete and you admire their prowess and what they can do. But there’s a whole lot of systems operating internally that must be at optimum for that athlete to perform. And when we think about our homes, it’s exactly the same.
Daniel: It just works.
Shayne: Yeah. It all just gets thrown together. No, I was just reflecting on some of the stuff I eat I’ll probably need to reconsider that.
Daniel: You walk into the kitchen, you flick the tap water comes out. It’s all we need to know.
Shayne: And you can put a glass under it and you don’t have to think twice. And in some ways that’s the signature of good plumbing. My test was always that my mom could point to any name in the phone book, ring them up and have them come out and do the plumbing, and not worry about the standard of that work or anything. She’s not an expert. She wouldn’t be a person who would understand what the plumbing services needed to be. But if we would have it right, if she doesn’t have to worry about that and whoever came out could deliver the services she needed and I don’t think we’re there, but I think in the main, Australian plumbing standards are certainly well on the way to achieving that. And as I say, it’s them back to a lot of the participants within the industry just to make sure that they’re current and they’re working on the things that they need to and they know what they’re doing. So, as I said we moved around a lot of different industries in different parts of the world, looked how training was being delivered, looked at ourselves in terms of our water efficiency and the things that we do really well and tried to develop a design that brought all that together with an eye to the future. Because I think that’s probably one of the things that we struggle the most with. And it’s a tale of woe for any industry that’s been born, shone for a while and then petered out. It hasn’t looked at how it needs to change into the future. And I think one of the great strengths of PICAC in terms of bringing the key industry stakeholders together is we’ve got an eye on that future. So we’re looking to say, okay how do we need to influence governments? Because governments don’t understand where our industry needs to go. Governments will respond to what we’re identifying as the issues. Governments don’t understand what training we need. The star pupil who’s going to be a great apprenticeship applicant of tomorrow sitting in high school, he doesn’t know or she doesn’t know what the industry needs. Employers working focussed now on today they don’t necessarily know where this industry’s going to head tomorrow. But coming together, working together, identifying where the issues are, identifying where the gaps are, and then trying to move forward with a collective impression about what the future’s gonna be gives us the best chance to train for that. And that’s what we’ve tried to create out at Narre Warren. So, yeah it is the first, zero net energy design training facility. It’s certainly the first one we’ve had involved for training the plumbing industry. And what that means is that we’ve been able to use a geothermal system combined with extensive PV panels to have a building that basically generates all it’s own power, all it’s own heating and cooling and mechanical energy from mechanical services. And the great thing about that is not that that necessarily just reduces operating costs, which is kind of nice. It’s a significant upfront investment, and we’ve actually not even been content to use the current designs. We’ve worked with universities, Monash University, Melbourne University and Deakin University to actually work on various aspects of the design out there to make sure that it’s actually very future focused. And what we’re trying to do is then we’ll now expose our students to this latest technology and we’ve used a lot of cutaways, we’ve used a lot of demonstration within the building to show and aid training, and we believe we’ll be exposing students to the most contemporary plumbing available anywhere in Australia. We’ve got building management systems out there that we’ll be monitoring efficiency and we’ll be able to read what we’re doing with our water energy usage is. But more than that we’ve got smart bathroom technology that’s never seen before. And we’ve incorporated things like vacuum toilet technology just to prove that shit can flow up hill. So we’ll be putting everything that we can into the mix in terms of the plumbing of tomorrow to have it on display. But probably the thing that’s never been done anywhere else in the world that one of the challenges we all grappled with as we started to think about the design for this building was yeah, we can take a photo of today and we can produce something that will represent an evolution into tomorrow. But what about the day after? What about the day after that? How do we maintain a contemporary edge? Because that’s been the thing that’s challenged every trainer and institute in terms of how to deliver training to an industry that’s on a bit of an exponential curve in terms of development. So what we did was we thought, well, what’s the gateway to innovation? And we’ve got product certification. So a product doesn’t come into the marketplace unless it’s been certified. Prior to being certified it’s got to be tested. So we were fortunate enough to convince IAPMO, they run an Australian product certification and standards organization, one of the biggest in the world. And we’d had a long relationship with them. We’d looked at what they were doing in the US, in India, China, Indonesia, a lot of areas where they’d been active. And we sat down and had a discussion with them about what if we incorporated a product certification laboratory testing facility into a training facility. And when we worked with our architects on this, they immediately became excited and said, well, we could actually design a building that facilitated this. So when you go out to Narre Warren and I hope that if there is anyone listening that they’ll accept an invitation to come out and have a look at the site.
Daniel: Even the people that can train or are looking for an apprenticeship in the coming months. Make sure you check it out online and you could very well be sitting and enjoying that facility.
Shayne: So when you look at the facility, we’ve got basically one third dedicated to new product, new technology, innovation, whatever’s coming in and going to influence the plumbing industry. Then we’ve got a central area which is auditorium open space where things can be displayed, forums can take place, knowledge exchanges can occur. And I’m not talking about students, I’m talking about anyone interested to come into forums to discuss where various aspects of the industry development’s headed. Straight out of the production line if you like, straight out of the oven, so to speak. And then you move into, to the final part of the building, which is of course the training facility. So we go immediately from a product that didn’t exist in the Australian market this morning, to being on display by lunchtime and then introduced into the training delivery curriculum by that afternoon. That’s how responsive we see the environment being created in Narre Warren. And from there we’ll disseminate out to all our training facilities. And it’s our vision, it’s our hope that we’ll keep our delivery as contemporary as possible so that we’re equipping the men and women who participate in our industry to able to move forward with development and deliver the plumbing services of tomorrow. And we don’t find ourselves in this catch up position where we’re just not able to respond to the new technologies or new processes.
Daniel: I’ve been out to the facility and it is very, very impressive with all, as you mentioned before with some of the exposed things like going to the bathroom and seeing all the pipe work through the wall. It’s fascinating for someone who hasn’t got a fantastic grasp on plumbing to see how it all works. Even the day I went out there it was a pretty wet day. So all of the storm water from the roof coming through clear pipes that run inside the building, it was just interesting see the volume of water that actually comes off a roof when it rains is pretty interesting to see. So I recommend if anyone does have an interest in plumbing and one wants to see how it all works, get out there when it’s complete and you’ll be able to see first hand. In addition to your responsibilities at PICAC, and from what you’ve just explained it’s seems like a pretty significant role on its own. You’re also chair of the World Plumbing Council. Can you tell us a little bit about what the council does and how you came to be part of that?
Shayne: I think the great joy about being involved with a part of the industry that has a very external focus, is that you can step back and try and take a global perspective on issues. Ever since I’ve been at PICAC the board and others have encouraged me to look at what’s happening in the broader picture so that we can understand how we need to be responding in Australia. And the thing is, and our industry has a long tradition of this, it’s a two way street. We can go to Germany and we can go into the USA, North America, we can look at where the highest standards of plumbing are being exhibited and we can soak all that up and try and bring as much of that back to Australia as we can. And we do. Just recently, I didn’t go this year, but I’ve been numerous times before. We try and send some people along to ISH to have a look at all the emerging products, seven massive display sheds of plumbing products. You just wouldn’t believe there was that many toilet seats in the world but the opportunity to go and look at what’s emerging has been a real privilege of being involved with this job. But the other thing is about what can we give back. So we look at plumbing around the world and pretty quickly understand things like there are a lot of people who die in the world, particularly children because that don’t have access to reliable fresh drinking water, they don’t. And if they do have access to a form of drinking water, it’s almost inevitably adulterated by poor sanitation. So you think about simple things that we can do, we’ve been talking this morning about some of the opportunities in the sophisticated high tech end. But there’s still significant portions of the world that can’t put that glass under a tap, and just have a drink. The significant parts of the world where the big tasks for the day is to set out in some direction, to some point to get, if you’re lucky, a bucket under a community tap or well maybe nothing more than a muddy creek or indentation in the side of the road, but certainly not access to water as we would understand it. And then in terms of safe disposal of sanitation, just completely unknown. And it’s not just, as I’m describing this a lot of people will be thinking about oh, yeah in Africa, some of those countries it’s pretty bad, but in India it’s still 40% of the population doing open defecation. The need to do and respond to development of safe sanitation systems. Never example better than what’s happening in India today where the prime minister has said, if we’re going to really be a serious power within the world, economic influence, then maybe we’ve got to start installing a few toilets in homes. So you’ve got that occurring all around the world, you’ve got places in Australia where you get out into remote communities there are people here who perhaps are not getting access to plumbing services, who are therefore not getting access to reliable fresh water supply or safe sanitation. And unfortunately in remote indigenous communities, this is just too often the case.So it’s not just Africa, India, and the kind of countries you might think of, it’s also places like remote indigenous communities in Australia. So through the World Plumbing Council, there’s a commitment to try and drive improvement through plumbing of those standards of sanitation and access to fresh water supply by exchanging ideas and working together. But also even amongst the so-called highly sophisticated plumbing system countries, we can all learn from each other. So there’s certain product innovations that might occur in one part of the world that can bring a lot of benefit to another part of the world. So the World Plumbing Council’s about trying to, equip and exchange those ideas. The other thing that the plumbing council is very keen on, is trying to create opportunities for development. So, it offers a number of scholarships where people can make application from anywhere in the world and we try and fund a development opportunity and hopefully the concept is that if we get someone coming in and maybe training in the US or training in Australia that then they can go back to their country and maybe train up a few others. And we’re looking at a means by which we’re committed to developing the levels of plumbing standards around the world.
Daniel: I’m going to assume it’s just representatives of plumbing businesses and communities from all around the world do you meet often, I can imagine it’d be a little bit logistically impossible to do it frequently, but in the world of Skype and everything else it’d be committee meetings all the time.
Shayne: Yeah. I kind of want to come there and committee meetings all the time. There’s just so much international plumbing you can talk about. But you make a really great point that because of things like the way that a connectedness has improved around the world, that things like having to jump on plane as perhaps we did in the past has diminished a lot and that has opened up access to the World Plumbing Council. So, this year alone we’ve had members from Nigeria and Rwanda join up the World Plumbing Council and look, it’s just so satisfying to see countries that probably don’t have a lot of the things that we really take for granted, make real significant advances by simply a few of us getting together and providing a few things like sample standards and sample codes and a few different tools, et cetera. We hosted a scholarship winner from Outer Mongolia. Now I know you think I’m making that up, but that is true. This guy came in from Outer Mongolia. He’d never seen welding before. He’d never seen brazing, any sort of pipe joining of that nature. So he came to PICAC, he was here a couple of weeks, we moved him around a few places, went out to a few sites. He went back to Mongolia and has established a skills competition in that country. It’s just how this sort of thing can snowball. So World Plumbing Day, they have a skills competition. And he was able to bring back some of the skills that he’d developed, yes, at a very base level, but at least that in a small way that industry has moved forward due to some of the activities that we’ve been able to expose people to through the whole plumbing council.
Daniel: That’s fantastic. It’s the age old thing of give a man a fish and you feed him for the day, teach him how to get it and you’ll feed him for lifetime. The plumbing industry recently celebrated World Plumbing Day on March 11, happens every year. And an international event initiated by the World Planning Council as a means of highlighting the important role plumbing plays in health, safety and sustainability of our community. Another initiative started by the World Plumbing Council is the World Plumbing Conference, and it makes its way to Melbourne later this year. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Shayne: Well, yeah. Two things you’ve touched on there. Let’s just start with World Plumbing Day, that’s a really fantastic event. It’s just an opportunity to do two things. One is draw attention to the plight of people who just don’t have access to fresh water and sanitation like I was talking about before. And I think, that’s not fully understood. I think a lot of people understand drought stricken landscapes and there’s no water. But I think what people don’t understand is the broader ramifications of things like, if you’ve got to tie up a lot of your household economic activity in gathering water, you’re not doing a whole lot of other things. So you’re probably not going to school. You’re probably not doing things that could earn you economic resource to do things like buy food and do other things that we would take for granted, because your time’s taken up on gathering water. So that’s even in a non drought stricken country. Getting back to your example of the water coming out of the tap in the glass going underneath that convenience, if you had to do other things to gather that water, it means you’re not doing things that might be quite fundamental to you surviving on a day to day basis. When you get on to sanitation, I think people can make that connection about what would happen if the sanitation wasn’t adequately addressed and you could get sick and younger children getting exposed to diseases that cause diarrhea et cetera. That’s really, really serious. But people don’t make that…there’s probably another concentric circle out with things like okay, if there’s not adequate toilet facilities at the schools, then in certain societies, once girls get to 12, 13 they’re not going to school. So you start thinking about, hang on, that’s got a knock on effect on to education. There’s a whole sector of that community that’s not going to be able to complete school to any…what we would call satisfactory level. It just continues to exacerbate that poverty cycle, that cycle of potential disease and tragically death. So it’s not just yeah, not being able to access water. There’s a whole complex array of factors that diminish lifespan and quality of life that are associated with the things that plumbers do on a day to day basis. And that’s the second aspect of World Plumbing Council activity on World Plumbing Day. And that’s to recognize what plumbers do. And I still marvel, I guess that’s a polite way of saying, deal with my frustration about the number of people who would not really understand what plumbing is, circa 2019 and what’s involved in terms of the knowledge and I guess abilities of those who are delivering those plumbing services. And World Plumbing Day is a day where we can mark that, where you kind of sort of say, well, I sort of exaggerate to make the point, but you could look at a plumber and say, hey, thanks for saving my life. Thanks a lot that I’ve got a community I can live in where my children can sleep at night. The house isn’t going to burn down, house isn’t going to blow up, there’s not going to be some bio hazard within the house that is going to slowly subject us to disease.
Daniel: Not going to get as sick as often.
Shayne: You’re not going to have to go down to the corner, down to the we used to call them milk bars, but go down to the local sort of pump and get yourself some water. All this amenity in an ever increasing environment of risk is delivered through the work and competence of plumbers. And World Plumbing Day is just an opportunity to say, hey, yeah guys, thanks. Everyone involved in this space, we probably take it for granted. We either make jokes about how much you earn or what sort of environment you’re working in. And yeah, we cop all that we don’t mind but I think I’m also pretty pleased to take a bit of pride in what we actually do. I’m pretty pleased to be involved in an industry like ours. The other thing that you pointed out was the conference and it’s actually a triennial conference. It only happens every three years and I’m really delighted that six years ago, Melbourne won the bid. It’s a bit of an Olympic style-
Daniel: …and the winner is!.
Shayne: Yeah, and the winner is Melbourne. And so that’s now come around. I don’t know where that six years is gone, but September this year we’ll be running the conference here. We’ve got delegates coming from all over the world and this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to come together with some of the absolute thought leaders of our industry. And the theme of the conference, even though it’s going to be wrapped around the four pillars of plumbing, and the World Plumbing Council has identified that there are four key components to a successful plumbing industry. And they are participation, which is the training requirements to work in the industry. Practices, which is the standards and accountability in day to day work in the industry. Products, pretty obvious, the features and qualities and materials that are necessary for appropriate products, that enter our industry and protection, which is the means of minimizing risk whether that be the consumers or practitioners, when failure or things go wrong. So around those four pillars of plumbing, the conference is looking at what’s the future? Where’s the industry headed? But not just in the narrow context of the industry. We think about things like the effect of the Internet and I.T, and the way that we’re communicating and exchanging information a lot we talked about earlier. The fact that you can have oh, I don’t know a podcast, all these sort of things. If I was trying to explain this to my dad, I just wouldn’t have a hope. So the rate of change, the pace of change, we will be nuts if we don’t sit back and sort of say, what’s coming up in the next five, 10, 15, 25. Because if we’re not equipping for that now, we’re broadly as a community, we’re going to get left behind. And specifically as an industry we’re going to find that we’ve become redundant and superseded. So trying to have a look at what the future is in a broad context and then bring that down to the four pillars of plumbing is the real focus of this conference and I’ll just encourage anyone who believes they’ve got an interest in the future of the industry that they try and get along to the conference if they can. It’s also going to incorporate our annual plumbing awards night, which has just become an absolute sensational event each year here in Melbourne for the plumbing industry where we recognize those champions, those people who’ve made significant contributions to the industry, have achieved standards of excellence that we want to encourage. And it’s just an evening where we were able to have a look at what’s been going on in the industry and an offer due credit to those that have made significant contributions. So that will form part of the conference, but this time it’ll have a real international flavor. So I think it’s going to be something not to miss. And there’s plenty of information online about the conference. If you search WPC 2019 there’ll be plenty of information about how to get involved in that conference.
Daniel: Fantastic. I’m really look forward to going and attending the awards night as well. Thanks for joining us today. I wish you all the best with everything in the future for PICAC and the World Plumbing Council. But for now, Shayne thanks for joining us.
Shayne: Daniel it’s been fantastic thanks for having me.