In the last of our history pieces, Amanda Bain looks back on almost 126 years of Master Plumbers setting the industry standard in plumbing innovation.

As we approach our 126th year in operation, it’s not surprising that future proofing the plumbing industry has been a recurring theme throughout the Association’s history. From as early as 1893, the Master Plumbers have been offering educational services to its members as a way of sharing and retaining knowledge and experience.

Master Plumbers has been delivering its own training to plumbers as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) since 1992. The initial focus was on short course, upskill training programs for plumbers, and later on, the range of courses rapidly expanded to include gas appliance servicing, licence courses such as backflow and our Green Plumber program.

Now in its 25th year of operation in training, the Master Plumbers together with our industry partners remain proudly committed to the principle of delivering training for industry by industry. It strives to continue to deliver high quality training that meets the skill development needs of its members, industry stakeholders and plumbing practitioners now and into the future.

A collaborative effort

Partnering and working together with other industry stakeholders has been essential to achieving our goals for the future. One initiative that has brought together key employee and employer groups including Master Plumbers, the Plumbing and Pipe Employees Union (PPTEU), the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association of Australia and the National Fire Industry Association (NFIA), was the establishment of the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC) in Brunswick in April 2009.

The objectives for building the Centre were threefold: to transform and upskill the industry, to address a growing skills gap, to keep the industry up to date with the rest of the world, and provide an environment for innovation with a particular focus on sustainability.

This certainly broadened the plumbing industry’s future horizons in the area of training and education delivery. Today, PICAC showcases leading edge technology from around the world, and is a working example of innovative design and sustainable plumbing practices that o ers state of the art training facilities for pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and post trade plumbing courses.

The success of the Centre over the last nine years has also seen its expansion into other regions of Victoria. A second campus in Geelong was opened in November 2016, marking a crucial step in making quality industry training more available to the West and North of Melbourne. Through this new facility, PICAC will also be able to re-train hundreds of retrenched or displaced workers who have been affected by the declining manufacturing industry. For existing qualified tradespeople including welders, metal fabricators, machinists, and fitters and turners, leveraging the customised training on o er with their existing experience, will provide them with a real opportunity to re-enter the workforce and join an industry with promising job prospects. Funding for construction of a third site in the south eastern suburb of Narre Warren has been committed by the State Government, with commencement works starting soon.

Our relationship with our partners was further strengthened in 2015 when the Master Plumbers offices relocated from King Street in the CBD to Brunswick, where we are now co-located on the same site as PICAC.

Commending the best in the industry

Master Plumbers also introduced a suite of Apprentice Awards to recognise and encourage the achievements of new talent in the industry. Turn to page 10 to nd out who this year’s winners were at the Awards celebration evening held on 5 May.

Collaboration with our industry partners saw the introduction in 2015 of the Plumbing and Fire Industry Awards. Working with the NFIA, PICAC, the PPTEU, and joining us in 2017, the Association of Hydraulic Service Consultants Australia, the aim of the Awards is to recognise excellence in the training and development achievements of individuals and companies.

This is a unique event that recognises professionals at every stage of their career and across the various disciplines. To find out more about this year’s event on 5 August, book tickets or nominate for an award, please turn to page 22.

An event of this calibre attracts over 500 key industry business owners, decision makers and employers who attend the event and who also provide support in the form of sponsorship. Any funds raised through the Awards are donated to the Indigenous Plumbing Sanitation Fund, established to provide relief for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Indigenous communities who are living with dangerously poor sanitation. The Fund is used to support the Indigenous Apprenticeship Program, giving young people the opportunity to gain plumbing trade qualifications. This Program is backed up by the Fund’s Mentoring Program. In an Indigenous context, mentoring is a particularly promising initiative because it ts well with Indigenous teaching and learning styles and can help to build strong collective ties within a community.

Community outreach

In recent years, Master Plumbers has extended its support in the community with CEO Ken Gardner forming part of “The Crackers” White Lion Bail Out team. The Bail Out is Whitelion’s national fundraising and awareness campaign that supports its objective to reduce youth homelessness through assertive outreach.

Master Plumbers Bendigo based members have also been contributing to charitable fund raising activities through the annual Golf Day. This increasingly popular event has raised an impressive $250,000 for Camp Quality since the Golf Day was first introduced 27 years ago.

Alongside the social events and awards celebrations, the Association continues to represent its Members through regulatory reform recommendations. As many in the industry will be aware, the Plumbing Regulations 2008 Sunset Review is currently underway in Victoria. Master Plumbers have made a submission which is now being evaluated. Following this, a Regulatory Impact Statement and draft Regulations will be released in early February 2018, followed by a public consultation period. For a more detailed update on the Review, please turn to the article on page 36.

What’s next?

Looking ahead, National licencing, offsite construction, passive re protection systems and the review of the Plumbing Training Package, are all issues that need to be addressed through continual lobbying and consultation with members.

The strength of our Association comes from our large and reputable membership and you can play a key role in helping us to protect and effect change to the industry and in support of various plumbing, business and environmental recommendations. The opinions of our members are important and we regularly seek comments and feedback on issues affecting their business and the plumbing industry via our e-news and the Members Online Forum.

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We will continue working with our industry partners for the benefit of all.