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Leading the way: Auckland apprentice wins national plumbing scholarship

19 May 2023
apprentice awards

Auckland-based apprentice Sebastian Sekene not only won a Plumbing World Scholarship but was named Overall Scholarship Winner at the national 2023 New Zealand Plumbing Awards, held at Te Pae Convention Centre in Christchurch on Friday 5 May.

Unlike his other siblings, Sebastian didn’t enjoy school. He didn’t want to go to university, so his mum said he had to get a trade. He was sat in an engineering class one day when a teacher asked if anyone wanted to be a plumber.

Sebastian spoke with his school’s careers adviser who directed him to do a pre-trade course at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). After that, at 18 years of age, he landed a plumbing, gasfitting & drainlaying apprenticeship through Masterlink at Heron Plumbing.

Sebastian had no idea that anyone else in his family had been a plumber, until an older tradesman at Heron recognised his family name and told him he used to work with his grandfather back in Niue.

Sebastian was nominated for a scholarship by Tom Poole, Contracts Manager at Heron Plumbing.

Tom says, "Sebastian has been growing in maturity over the last three years. We noticed a huge jump when he returned from his Outward Bound programme. Sebastian is now trying to encourage our younger team members to be better at everything they do in both their work and personal lives."

Sebastian won a Masterlink Outward Bound Scholarship in 2022. He spent 16 days at Anakiwa with other construction apprentices on a Building Leaders Course.

He says it was the best thing he’s ever done, and it really opened his eyes to what kind of person and leader he wants to be in the industry.

"According to other people that know me apparently, I’ve come back from the course a lot more mature and switched on, but I reckon I’m still the same old Sebastian."

Sebastian is now 22 years old and in the fourth year of his five-year apprenticeship. He admits he has grown a lot over the past 12 months of his apprenticeship.

"Now I’m running my own big jobs and working alone most of the time. Compared to me at this point last year, I’m light years ahead of where I was but that’s also due to the people who have passed down their knowledge and experience to me.

"It’s still scary showing up to a site to do a job, but it’s also part of the challenge that I enjoy."

Tom explains, "Sebastian has been left in charge of the completion of two medium scale commercial projects as the senior site managers running the jobs were moved on to start new projects.

"During these periods Sebastian has proven to be committed to his trade and determined to grow into a site manager so he can be given the chance to run a project through from start to finish.

"Both projects were finished to a high standard, and the feedback provided from our clients was all positive."

Since October 2022, Sebastian has contributed a bi-monthly column to NZ Plumber magazine where he shares what it’s like to be an apprentice and what he loves about plumbing.

"For me, it’s honestly just as basic as supplying water to buildings. I get a boost just knowing that I contributed to supplying people with potable water to fulfil their everyday needs. I’m proud that my work literally has an effect on other people’s lives."

Sebastian’s next magazine column will be about winning the Plumbing World Scholarship and attending the NZ Plumbing Conference for the first time. He also participated in the Women & Diversity Panel discussion sharing his experiences with an appreciative audience.

Tom says, "Sebastian has become an asset to Heron Plumbing as he has proven he is able to step up when required."

Sebastian wins a certificate and $1000 to spend at his local Plumbing World branch. As the Overall Scholarship Winner, Sebastian was awarded a trophy and full registration for the 2023 NZ Plumbing Conference, including travel and accommodation, plus a complimentary ticket to the awards.

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