When we last caught up with plumbing apprentice Sebastian Sekene, he was counting down the days to a month-long summer break after being flat tack at work.

So, what have you been up to on site at the apartment project?

In the final month, I took over as plumbing site manager when the tradesman I was working with moved to another job. Man, that was a lot to take on! I had to organise different trades to come and work for us, like shower installers to come put in liners and doors, and I was also ordering gear to the site and managing timeframes.

That sounds like a challenge!

Yeah, it’s good to get a taste of responsibility and see how the business ticks. Getting gear dropped to site was difficult. If it didn’t arrive on the given date, it pushed me back and that pushed the other trades back—and the follow-up calls to chase orders ate up a lot of time. There was a big push pre-Christmas to get things done in time for council inspections, which meant getting lots of remedial work done on existing stuff, like replacement kitchen mixers and laundry tubs.

Sebastian at work on the apartment project.
Sebastian at work on the apartment project.

How did you juggle being hands-on and a site manager?

There are so many moving pieces to a project like this and I was getting about 10 phone calls a day, as well as emails—but I’m always happy to help if people have queries. I had an apprentice on site helping me and if we were pushed I could call my Contracts Manager to get three or four more plumbers on. I get tunnel vision while I’m working at a task, so I had to make sure I was also thinking about what work to give them next. The Contracts Manager touched base with me once a week to see if I needed any help and gave me a spreadsheet to keep updated with progress on each unit.

Hope you found time to take breaks during the day?

I always make time for lunch—there’s no way I’m ever going to miss that! Me and my partner do a big meal prep every Sunday, so we’re sorted for the week. It saves time and money. We make things like chicken, rice and veges that can be heated up if there’s a microwave on site, or eaten cold. I get hungry, so I also take plenty of muesli bars and snacks to eat at work or when I’m driving to the gym at the end of the day.

Sebastian Sekene is a 21-year-old Masterlink fourth-year plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprentice, hosted by Heron Plumbing in Auckland. He currently works in the commercial division of the business.

This article first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine Feb-Mar 2023