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The complete package

From resorts and churches to schools and wineries, no two working days are ever the same for Travis Coles. Kathryn Kernohan finds out why Travis strives to have a diversity of clients and provide a diverse range of trades.

TJ Coles has been working with the St Marys Parish Geelong for more than a decade, providing services including roof maintenance, drainage, and downpipes.

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The complete package

“Something I was taught as an apprentice was that if you’re going to do a job, you try and do as much of it as you can yourself,” says the founder and owner of Geelong’s TJ Coles Plumbing.

“With all of my clients, I try and do all their work where I can. I do the gas, the plumbing, the roofing and the hot and cold. If it means that they don’t have to call in different trades to do different things, it’s ultimately better for the client.”

Travis’ journey in the industry has taken him in several different directions, but he still recalls the advice of his mother when he was a young man. “She was a school teacher and she always instilled in us to do a trade.

I ended up leaving school in Year 10 in New South Wales and did a plumbing pre-apprenticeship at Wagga Wagga TAFE when I was 16. I remember I got a worker’s license to be able to drive 70kms each way to TAFE, New South Wales was ahead of the game at the time,” he says.

After moving to Jan Juc, Travis undertook an apprenticeship with Ron Diamond Plumbing where he got to work on major commercial projects in Melbourne and on the surf coast.

“We did the Cumberland [resort] at Lorne, Werribee Plaza and a lot of commercial work and houses all the way along the Bellarine Peninsula to Apollo Bay. With the residential jobs, we’d do all the work from the septic tank to the sewer, the stormwater tanks and the water pumps. It was fantastic to get such a good grasp of plumbing. After I got my apprenticeship, I stayed and worked with him for another two years.”

Travis then had a bit of a career pivot and worked in the hospitality industry, including owning several pubs, but maintained his plumbing licence and dabbled where he could.

When a workplace injury forced a rethink, he decided to return to plumbing full-time and established TJ Coles Plumbing. “I started with just myself and now I have three guys, I still like to be really hands-on. I’ve had a couple of apprentices come through who’ve gone on to become great plumbers, and I like that side of it too, training the next generation of plumbers” he says.

TJ Coles has been working with the St Marys Parish Geelong on the historic landmark St Mary of the Angels Basilica in Geelong, for more
than a decade, providing services including roof maintenance, drainage, and downpipes.

“My favourite part of the job is being able to work with copper in this amazing building.”

The businesses’ unique drain diagnostics work also makes it in demand with schools and other domestic and commercial clients.

“I’ve got a vehicle that can find problems and unblock drains. It’s all via CCTV so you can record what you see, locate broken pipes, and dig them up, fix them or I refer my client to a local relining company to reline them. We use the equipment pretty much every day, which has been a great learning tool for my apprentices to reinforce why it is so important to lay the drain correctly.

“We also work with a full turn-key beverage solutions provider just outside of Geelong where they crush, bottle and keg. The diagnostics work means that if they’ve got a blockage or a burst pipe, we can go out, diagnose it, fix it and they don’t have to lose any production. You get the job fixed quickly and they can move on,” he says.

Over recent years, Travis has also worked closely with Geelong’s Deakin University where part of his work was on hydrogen pipeline testing, where people from Deakin were testing “how much hydrogen they could put in gas mains without compromising the pipes.” From there, he worked with Austeng on their hydrogen crematorium project (see here).

“My current work supporting leading edge manufactures and developers ensures that I have a front row seat at being able to work with a number of local businesses such as BNNT Technology Pty Ltd which manufactures Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNt’s) super flexible fibres that are stronger than any metal or carbon fibre,” says Travis.

“I feel so lucky to be able to work across so many different parts of the industry, including new resources like hydrogen which will continue to integrate into our lives.”

“I am very fortunate to still have my mum and dad clients, many that have been with me since the beginning. Servicing these domestic clients ensure that I can teach my apprentices how important it is to have a basic skill set. It’s a great mix and I love it.”

Incolink – Grant – FY 2023

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TJ Coles has been working with the St Marys Parish Geelong for more than a decade, providing services including roof maintenance, drainage, and downpipes.

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Incolink – Grant – FY 2023

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