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Succession planning

Wayne is making sure his family business continues well after his retirement and he is making sure gender is not an issue. Amy, his daughter, said she and her siblings are ready to take on the challenge.

Wayne is making sure his family business continues well after his retirement and he is making sure gender is not an issue.

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Succession planning

Amy Hutchinson was living in Byron Bay, working as a chef, when the COVID-19 pandemic
started disrupting health and livelihoods. With the hospitality industry, among many others, hit hard Amy had some decisions to make.

“I’d sort of realised that being a chef wasn’t for me anymore anyway and then the industry
took a massive hit.

I decided to move back to Melbourne where all of my family and friends are, and then the
opportunity came up where Dad asked if I wanted to start working with him, so the timing
was perfect,” she says.

Amy’s father is Wayne Hutchinson, Director of Tullamarine Plumbing and Drainage, the business his father Jim established in 1987.

“It’s always been a family business, originally it was my father, my brother and myself,” says Wayne.

“Sadly, my brother passed away 12 years ago and Dad is retired now, he hung the boots up about 15 years ago. So, it’s just been me for a while, but I’ve got the kids involved now.

My son is involved in doing the estimating and my other daughter is in the office doing accounts.”

Amy adds that Wayne and her mother actually met through the business.

“My mum’s dad was working for my dad’s dad, and even my grandfather on the other side was a plumber so the industry has always been a massive part of my life,” she says.

Prior to COVID, Amy’s career had taken her from office work to seasonal work at the snow, but says she always had an interest in joining the industry she grew up around.

“I remember wanting to do plumbing out of high school but back then it was not common whatsoever for women to be in trades, so I was deterred at the time.

I remember as a kid when all the job sites were shut over Christmas, the big crazy machinery would come to our place and as kids we were in awe of it!”

The business undertakes all types of hydraulic service projects, ranging from design and construct to construct only projects and commercial maintenance work.

Previous clients include Brighton’s Cabrini Hospital, Parliament House and the  redevelopment of Melbourne’s Pentridge complex, including a shopping centre, Palace
Cinemas and the recently opened Adina Hotel.

“We pretty much offer everything apart from roofing and mechanical work. Our team varies from 20 to 40 depending on how much work we’ve got going on at the time,” says Wayne.

Amy admits that some of the apprehension she felt as a teenager was still there when she
commenced her apprenticeship.

“I guess I thought it would be a bit scary, basically not that welcoming for women. I remember one of the guys didn’t want me to lift the ladder, didn’t want me get into the
trench, and one of the foremen said to him ‘she wants to be a plumber, so she’s got to work!’.

“That’s changed over time and I’m definitely just Amy now. I know when I have to ask for help, like if something’s a bit too heavy, that there’s no shame in it. Everyone was much more welcoming and helpful than I could have imagined.”

Amy has also been supported by Master Plumbers’ Women in Plumbing program, which
connected her with a network of other women in the industry.

“It’s been a really positive experience meeting other women in plumbing, as you don’t see that many girls out on site. There’s a group of us and it’s really good catching up for a drink and being able to have a chat about how we’re going,” she says.

Wayne hopes that his daughter’s positive experience can help to encourage other women to consider a career in plumbing.

“I knew that she was starting in an industry that’s dominated by men but things are changing now - you see more women in trades … from plumbers to electricians and
other jobs, and in general women are more accepted than they’ve been before,” he says.

Amy recently completed her Journeyman’s Exam and says the family is already considering a succession plan to ensure Tullamarine Plumbing and Drainage becomes a third-generation business.

“We are thinking that eventually my siblings and I will take the reigns when Dad’s ready to retire,” she says.

“She’s going to come into the office for probably 12 months and get a bit of experience in estimating and whatnot to help her round out her skills. It’s great to think that the kids will be able to take over one day,” adds Wayne.

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Wayne is making sure his family business continues well after his retirement and he is making sure gender is not an issue.

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