Most plumbers do their training, become qualified and registered, and once they start working on the tools, the classroom recedes to a distant memory. But just as people always need plumbers, plumbing schools always need trainers to develop the next generation of plumbers. We meet three people who have, for various reasons, gone back to trade school to teach plumbing. Here they talk about how the rewards far outweigh the challenges on the other side of the desk.
The path to success
There are some basic requirements that anyone who wants to become a trainer needs to have. Before they can start training, all new trainers must have successfully completed a Certi cate IV in Training and Assessment qualification. They must also have significant and current experience in the plumbing trade. After that, the entry points for people wanting to get into training can be quite different.
Some trainers work casually a few days a week while maintaining their plumbing businesses; some work at nights so they can stay on the tools during the day; others make the leap into full time training. Every trainer’s reason for getting into training is a bit different too.
Jane Clancy is a trainer who also runs her own business consultancy. She’s had a career in the building and construction trades for 20 years. “I got into training almost by accident; it’s been a bit of a theme of my career to be in the right place at the right time,” Jane says. “I’d helped people in trade set up their businesses over the years. I started training at a dual sector provider in a different capacity, but then I was offered a trade class to teach in the business area.”
Matt Fittolani became a trainer after he lost a leg in a car accident. “I wanted to stay in the industry but there were some jobs I was no longer able to do. I could hire subcontractors to do those tasks, but I needed to supplement my income,” Matt says. “I trained apprentices in my business, so I guess that laid the foundations for getting into this role.
There were other things I could have gone into, but teaching is something I’ve always been interested in. Even back when I was in school and deciding what I was going to do as a career, it was a toss-up between being a phys-ed teacher and going into a trade.”
Cameron Horsey has worked in the plumbing industry for 30 years, and he’s been working as a full time plumbing trainer for the last six. “I don’t work much on the tools anymore apart from helping a mate occasionally. I had my own business, mostly on my own, but I did employ a few apprentices as well. I found running a small business on my own challenging and not very compatible with family life. I wanted a new path I could take but still stay in the plumbing industry,” Cameron says.
Cameron adds, “I always had a focus on wanting to be a trainer at some stage. I had a good experience in trade school and even as an apprentice, being a trainer looked like something fun to do. As I got older and went through the industry, as a plumber I had a passion to train new apprentices. When I was working for someone else I was often the apprentice mentor and then when I did operate my own business I enjoyed teaching apprentices the skills I’d learned when I was young. When I decided to close my business, moving into training was a natural transition for me.”
Step up to the challenge
Any job can have its challenges and teaching is no exception; returning to studying and tackling the challenges of administration and paperwork is part of being a professional trainer. It can be a very different experience to life on the tools. But hurdles like these are quite easily overcome by plumbers who have been running their own businesses and keeping up to date with training during their career. Interestingly, the three trainers report their greatest challenges have largely come from unexpected aspects of teaching.
Matt says the most di cult thing he encountered initially was a bit of a surprise. “There is the challenge
of dealing with a lot of the social and emotional aspects of the younger generation. You’re working with kids who haven’t finished at the top in school, and their teachers tell them to go and do a trade. Then they get into a trade like plumbing where there’s such a high level of theoretical work and regulations they must learn and that often takes
the students by surprise.”
Jane says that the most challenging aspect of teaching is the time involved. “I take a lot of pride in giving the students information that is current and the only way to do that is extensive reading. You need to read trade journals and keep up to date with all the regulations as well, and of course technology is changing rapidly. There is a lot of time needed for lesson preparation before you even enter a classroom.” Cameron says, “The biggest challenge
I had at the beginning, was the public speaking aspect. To stand up in front of a class of learners, and not all of them are young kids anymore. To talk for eight hours and keep them interested can be a daunting prospect. It was a di cult thing to do but it is one hurdle I am happy to say I have overcome now with experience. It became quite easy in the end, because I was talking about plumbing which is a subject I know and am passionate about. Now sharing my knowledge when I train has become the part I look forward to most.”
Hard work is rewarded
All three trainers agree that the rewards far outweigh any of the di culties they’ve experienced in their new enterprise.
Cameron says seeing the students recognise that something is possible is incredibly rewarding. “When students actually achieve something – when they didn’t think they could do it but with a bit of time and practice and patience they succeed, that’s satisfying. They don’t really believe in themselves sometimes but then they come up with good results.”
For Jane, the end certainly justifies the means: “I get a real kick out of those occasions when a student has that real understanding of what they want to do career wise, and then they come back and tell you they’ve succeeded; or you’ll run into them a couple of years later and they’re doing well. There is so much opportunity in the industry and to see them achieve their goals is what really drives me.”
Matt also finds it gratifying to see students excel. “The most rewarding thing for me in being a trainer is being able to help the people who don’t feel like they’re up to succeeding. People that come from different socio-economic backgrounds, some of them haven’t had a traditional upbringing and they’re trying to break that cycle, to push themselves.”
Teaching is a fantastic way to pass on their industry knowledge, strengthen relationships and extend networks. “You teach your experience; you’re hoping to help your students learn from your mistakes. You’ve always got stories to tell and this can make a dry subject like tax, GST and contracts interesting and relevant to a new plumber or tradesperson,” Jane says.
Matt says, “Our industry experience and the people we know in the industry are an important aspect of what we do. Especially for instance when we teach Certi cate II preapprenticeship students, we match them to employers we know who are looking for a new apprentice.”
Cameron agrees that industry experience is a significant part of training. “The experience and the contacts help with teaching and with getting work placements. I still speak to guys who are current in the industry, so I know who’s looking to put on an apprentice. I’ve connected employers and learners to help facilitate a number of placements.”
Jane neatly sums up the motivation of most trainers, and encourages others to take it on. “If you’re thinking about becoming a trainer, give it a go. It is such a rewarding career and it can be financially rewarding as well if you manage your time right.” The plumbing industry is always going to need new entrants learning the trade and becoming skilled tradespeople. So there will always be the need for committed, professional plumbing trainers to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. Becoming a trainer is not just an option for plumbers who are coming to the end of their working careers on the tools. Training is a meaningful, rewarding option for tradespeople at any stage of their career who want to give back to the industry and share their passion for plumbing.
So if this is something that you have been thinking about for a little while, don’t wait any longer. Are you ready to become a plumbing trainer?