A watertight career

Tuesday 30th of June 2020
apprentice plumbing gasfitting drainlaying

Training as a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer can lead to a great career with excellent earning potential in one of New Zealand’s highest paying trades.

New technologies and processes mean plumbing is no longer all about getting your hands dirty. It is highly skilled, varied, profitable and rewarding.

It’s a future proof career too. Qualified plumbers are needed everywhere by everyone. They are in demand now and more will be needed to rebuild our economy following COVID-19.

Hera Eruera MIT Fitting off hot water cylinder 2 edit

Auckland-based second year Masterlink PGD apprentice Hera, age 25, fitting off a hot water cylinder.

Not just for school leavers

Plenty of people are entering our trade with a variety of work experience under their belt. Plumbing businesses value the commitment, communication and customer service skills that mature apprentices often possess.

Age is no barrier to achieving excellence, if you’ve got the right stuff!

Two Masterlink apprentices in their early thirties won scholarships at the 2020 New Zealand Plumbing Awards and the James Douglas Medallion supreme award winner for a newly qualified tradesperson, Brent Ewing started his Masterlink apprenticeship aged 38, having previously worked as a snowboard instructor, hospitality worker and roadworker.

Masterlink is a group apprentice training scheme, owned by respected national membership organisation Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ (Master Plumbers). We support apprentices, and the companies who host them, for the duration of the apprenticeship.

The average age of a Masterlink apprentice is 24 years old, but ranges from 16 to 46. We welcome male and female applicants from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Budget 2020 announced that the first two years of a trade apprenticeship will be fees-free for all new applicants—not just school leavers. And the Apprenticeship Boost initiative is supporting employers to take on new apprentices and retain them.

What you need to know

Plumbing is a collective term for three disciplines: Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drainlaying (PGD).

PGD are essential services ensuring the safe delivery of water to and the safe removal of wastewater from properties, plus installing hot water and heating systems—all vital for people’s health.

Plumbing and gasfitting are great choices for people who love working with their hands, solving problems and putting things together. Drainlaying suits physical people who like working outdoors, installing drainage pipes or using a digger to excavate trenches.

Combining all three skills means greater employability and a much wider range of work. No two days are the same for a registered and licensed Tradesman Plumber, Drainlayer and/or Gasfitter.

Apprentices earn while they learn, so there’s no huge student debt to repay on qualification. Training combines on-job work experience at a plumbing firm and off-job study (block course) with a training provider. As the name suggests, block courses are generally a full week, held at regular intervals through the training.

Different apprenticeships take different amounts of time:

  • PGD takes around 5 years (up to 10,000 hours of practical work experience)
  • Plumbing + Drainlaying takes 4 years (8,000 hours of practical work experience)
  • Drainlaying takes 2 years (4,000 hours of practical work experience)

Successful completion of an apprenticeship results in a New Zealand Certificate (Level 4).

Find out what you can earn as a qualified tradesperson HERE


43-year-old Brent receiving his Certificate of Completion (Plumbing + Gasfitting) - L to R:  host Stu McIvor of McIvor Plumbers & Gasfitters, Wanaka, Brent and Masterlink Regional Manager Brendan Parker.

Career path options

Qualified tradespeople may choose to further their qualifications to Certifying level, enabling them to supervise others and run their own business.

Or they may opt to specialise, becoming experts in areas such as home heating, domestic fire sprinklers, sustainable plumbing, backflow prevention and wastewater treatment.

Not all plumbers do domestic maintenance and repair work. Some companies specialise in large commercial or industrial projects, others focus on new residential builds such as housing subdivisions, apartment blocks or retirement villages.

A plumbing qualification can lead to other industry-related positions, such as project or contract management, plumbing design, or even training the next generation of skilled tradespeople!

Getting started with Masterlink

Masterlink was established in 2002 to deliver top quality PGD training. We screen applicants, employ successful candidates and place them with established firms or ‘hosts’ across New Zealand. All our apprentices become Master Plumbers Apprentice Members with access to special deals, discounts, training and events.

We’re the best value too. Our apprentices pay thousands of dollars less in training fees and begin their apprenticeship with a starter PPE and tool kit worth $2,500. 

We handle the administrative management of the apprenticeship, so apprentices can focus on learning and business owners can focus on their business! 

Our Regional Managers provide nationwide coverage and mentor apprentices in their areas. They regularly check in to see how things are going and make sure that everything is on track for qualification. Support is just a phone call or an email away.

Find out more about becoming an apprentice and apply online HERE

Find out more about future prospects in our industry HERE