Bayley Wilkie is setting a new benchmark for young female tradies to follow.

The 24-year-old has proven that hard work, a desire to learn and showing initiative to get your foot in the door pays off. Bayley is in the fourth year of her plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeship, hosted by Laser Plumbing Te Puke. She hopes to qualify in March next year.

Last year, she won the national Laser Plumbing Employee of the Year Award contested by qualified tradespeople from throughout New Zealand.

“When my boss told me he had nominated me and I had got through to the last three, it gave me more confidence to know he viewed me that highly,” she says. “It was an honour and a privilege to make the finals but then to take out the award, I was super excited. It is the biggest achievement in my career so far.”

Bayley Wilkie on site

There is no barrier for females within the industry. It is really good. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

Earlier this year, she was awarded a Masterlink Outward Bound Scholarship to attend a 16-day leadership course in July, plus a Plumbing World Scholarship was presented to her at the New Zealand Plumbing Awards held in June. Only three apprentice scholarships are presented annually. Bayley also took part in a Women in Plumbing, Diversity and Inclusion panel discussion held at the New Zealand Plumbing Conference.

In Year 13 at Mount Maunganui College, her favourite subjects were PE, Outdoor Education, and Hospitality and Food Nutrition. Plumbing was not her first choice as a career option.

Initially she wanted to be a personal trainer because she loved sport, but after working at a gym during a Gateway programme, she decided to change focus.

Her family played a big part in her career choice. Her dad is a roofer, but her mum did not want her to do that, so Bayley took her grandad’s advice and looked at plumbing.She went door knocking around plumbing companies but found the going tough until she went to Laser Plumbing Te Puke, when John Wilson told her she could start Monday.

She worked as a labourer for a year, as he already had two apprentices, then signed up with Masterlink to begin her apprenticeship.

Bayley Wilkie-7x5

Even though there are not many female plumbers around, Bayley says people have treated her with respect, particularly the teams at Masterlink and Laser Plumbing Te Puke.

“They are really supportive. If there is anything I need help with they are always there and even the other tradies and apprentices treat me as an equal.

“There is no barrier for females within the industry. It is really good. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given. I can do the same job that the boys do. There is nothing that can stop you achieving the end goal and result you are trying to achieve.

“If you don’t want to be in an office and you want to get out there into a trade, I highly recommend it to anyone.”

This article, written by Peter White, first appeared in Leaving School magazine Issue #24