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Winning streak

11 July 2023
plumber apprentice masterlink

Andrew Smith is not your average apprentice. He was one of 10 Masterlink Outward Bound Scholarship winners this year and one of three 2023 Plumbing World Scholarship winners. We discover that the secret to his success is a winning attitude.

Andrew’s interest in plumbing sparked when he attended a Gateway Programme organised through his school, St Patrick’s College in Wellington. He worked at EG Glennie & Co each Friday, and owner Mike Gooch soon spotted his potential.

“Finding good tradespeople is a lot of work, so we get another first-year apprentice every time one qualifies,” says Mike. “We encouraged Andrew to sign up with Masterlink and join us. And he’s gone from strength to strength.”

Mike looks for enthusiasm for learning and polite manners in apprentices. “They are big indicators as to how well someone will do. Andrew’s impeccable manners and thirst for knowledge make him a standout,” he explains. “He ticks every box: always on time, keen and an all-rounder.”

Since starting his plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeship in 2019, Andrew has been mentored by his Masterlink Regional Manager Bob McCoy, who says, “Andrew has been an exceptional apprentice to mentor. He gets on with the job without question and has displayed a high skill level beyond what would normally be expected at this point in his career.”

Andrew has learned how to install and repair plumbing systems, diagnose problems, and has a fantastic grasp of new technologies like solar water heating. “Andrew has a natural talent for plumbing,” says Mike. “He loves working on the highly technical stuff but is not afraid to get dirty drainlaying and is always willing to tackle new challenges.” Just as importantly, Andrew provides excellent customer service and cleans up after himself, which Mike says is crucial for getting repeat business.

Off-grid challenge

The most challenging job Andrew faced was working on an off-grid house, 20 minutes’ drive on a dirt road into Wellington’s South coast from the Brooklyn wind turbine. “The entire project was very complex,” Mike explains. “We did the drainage, spouting, chimney flashings, gas hob and backup gas water heating. The house had an array of panels that generate electricity, on-site water treatment for waste, a radio system, and a wood burner gasification boiler, which is convoluted. All the water is collected from the roof and goes into various tanks.

“The gasification system heats a thousand litres of water circulating through the radiators and runs the house heating. 

Another company had left the job after it proved too difficult, and they’d made many mistakes. Fixing it was like doing a jigsaw without the box.”

Not at all fazed by a tricky task, Andrew considers himself lucky to work on such a unique project. “I enjoy problem-solving and thinking through the process of fixing things,” he says. “The project involved every aspect of the plumbing industry. Plus, it was a whole new system we had to work through regarding layout. Mike and I worked closely to bounce ideas and work our way through the whole project.”

Variety is the spice of life in this industry—and Andrew appreciates that. “I love doing a bit of everything—maintenance jobs, residential renovations, some commercial work,” he says. He finds new technologies such as solar hot water systems particularly interesting. “It’s tough to figure it out sometimes, so it gets me thinking.”

Life goals

Andrew has passed all his Tradesman registration exams with flying colours and is now sitting the Certifying Plumber, Gasiftter and Drainlayer exams. By this time next year, he will be certified in all three trades and is excited about what the future holds.

“I am saving up for a house. After I’m certified, my next career goal is to see if I can start my own company one day,” he says. “I’m excited to continue growing in this industry.”

Andrew’s advice to anyone considering a career in plumbing is simple: “Show up on time with a good attitude and be ready to put in the hard yards. Be willing to learn from your mistakes and you’ll do well.”

Mike is confident that Andrew has a bright future. “He has all the qualities of a great plumber,” he says. “He’s reliable, skilled, and has a great attitude. Undoubtedly, he will continue to excel in his career.”

Andrew’s story is testament to the power of his hard work and dedication to his apprenticeship, and he has already proven himself a rising star. Because he entered his apprenticeship straight from school, Andrew has been profiled for Leaving School magazine and has featured on digital noticeboards in schools promoting apprenticeships to students. He and Mike have also both been photographed for the Masterlink website and brochures and are outstanding advocates for careers in the industry. 

Author: Je T’aime Hayr

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