Real Lives - Drain man

Wednesday 30th of October 2019
apprenticeships drainlaying

Large drainage projects are all in a day’s work for Masterlink apprentice Shea Reynolds. And he loves his chosen career.

For the past year, Shea Reynolds has been working on a major drainage project at the men’s and women’s prisons in Christchurch and the nearby, lower-security Rolleston Prison.

New drainage systems are being put in place as the Department of Corrections adds hundreds of extra cells across the three sites.

The ongoing project, which involves running main lines and putting in manholes and pipes, is part of the on-job experience this 30-year-old father of three has gained during his two-year drainlaying apprenticeship at Foleys in Christchurch.

“Working in the prison isn’t for everybody but it is what it is and it doesn’t bother me,” says Shea. “However, it’s a rigmarole to get to work because we have security checks each day on the way in and the way out.”

Shea began his apprenticeship in late 2017 and is due to start his final block course in October. He hopes to remain with Foleys once he has qualified.

Shae Reynolds in trench measurements edit

Above: The ongoing prison project involves putting in manholes and pipes requiring accurate measurements.

Career and family life

“I love what I do and it is something different all the time,” he says. “It’s also a career where you can start from the bottom and work your way up—and the money is pretty good too.

“I had been working as a stevedore in Dunedin and was away from home a lot and had a wee family, so it was pretty hard. I left the wharf and things have just gone from there.”

In the early part of his apprenticeship, Shea was placed with a business that mostly focused on residential drainage and new housing. At Foleys, he relishes the chance to jump on the big jobs.

“You have to learn all aspects of drainlaying, or at least that’s what I believe,” he says.

He also hopes to one day take his knowledge beyond New Zealand’s shores and help less fortunate communities worldwide.

“I’m going to carry on doing what I’m doing and later on I would like to do even bigger stuff like civil works and provide drainage for Third World countries that do not have the necessary facilities just to go to the toilet.

“It’s so simple and I do not understand why it’s not available to everybody.”

Shae Reynolds digger side view edit

Effort gets results

Shea is doing his apprenticeship through Masterlink, the mentored apprenticeship scheme run by Master Plumbers.

“Joining up with Masterlink is one of the best things I have ever done, it’s been smooth sailing ever since and I heavily recommend it to others,” he says.

“They have been keen to help me from the get-go and what you put in is what you get out. I push myself and in turn they help push me.

“I’d recommend anyone out there wondering what to do to get a trade—end of story. It’s very important for the whole country; we need skilled tradesmen.”

Shea’s Masterlink regional manager, Sam Timlin, is impressed by his efforts. “When Shea moved to Foleys, he took it and ran with it. He’s definitely one of the hardest workers I am mentoring.

“My role is mainly about sitting down with him and doing appraisals and setting goals for him in areas of work he may be lacking in—although, with Shea, he has made my job easy because he’s pretty darn good.

“To be put on the job at the Christchurch prisons and get that big job feeling is a great experience for him.”

Sam currently works with 26 apprentices across the South Island, from Nelson to Waimate, and besides encouraging them in the practical side of their jobs, he also assists them with their paperwork and makes sure they get it in on time.

“Shea only has a few assessments left to do and then he will be doing his final practical block course,” says Sam.

“It’s awesome to see him and other apprentices coming out the other side with a qualification and some experience and watching their confidence grow.”

Shea Reynolds Sam Timlin prison crop

Above L to R: Shea Reynolds and Masterlink Regional Manager, Sam Timlin on site.

This blog has been adapted from an article by Matthew Lowe in NZ Plumber magazine, Oct-Nov 2019 issue.