Having swapped a career in baking for a plumbing apprenticeship, Kevin Watt is excited about having more opportunities for progression.

Up until three months ago, Kevin Watt spent much of his time behind a commercial kitchen bench, more comfortable kneading dough than attending to any blockages.

Now, fresh into his plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprenticeship, the 34-year-old Aucklander from Torbay is loving the change of tempo. He chats to us about his previous career, how the two compare, and what led to the swap from pastries to tradies.

“Becoming a baker was honestly something I fell into. When I was 16, I worked part-time in the kitchen at Devonport New World. Then when I left school that year, they offered me a full-time baker position.”

For 17 years, Kevin worked his way up at a string of popular bakeries and commercial food providers, with his last role being at Solutions Food, a major meal supplier to hospitals and charities like Meals on Wheels.

“Baking has been great for the people you get to meet and the fun of making new creations.”

“Plumbing suited me best”

The turning point for Kevin however was when he took some time out on holiday last year. Reflecting on the work, he realised he wanted a job with more progression and the opportunity to make more money. “I compared all the trades but decided the skills that go into plumbing suited me best. I thought it over for a week then made the first call.”

Within days of submitting his application, Kevin had met his Masterlink Regional Manager Steve Meadows and was introduced to the boss of Next Level Plumbing later that week. Days later, he was employed. “It all fell into place quickly and I’m now just taking each day as it comes. I love the work and the small team. They are younger than me, even my boss, which has been refreshing. Everyone’s been so helpful in teaching me what I need to know.”

Mastering the basics first, Kevin has been busy making wastewater pipes for water cylinders, putting new taps in basins, and installing laundry tubs and outside taps.

Kevin image 2
Kevin at work on a bathroom fitout

“The work’s been varied and it’s great not knowing what I’ll be doing each day—that’s the biggest change from baking.

“Just today, we had to drive up to Piha to fix a leak in a solar hot water cylinder. And during the floods, we had call outs all over the place to drain carparks and fix leaks.”

I compared all the trades but decided the skills that go into plumbing suited me best. I thought it over for a week then made the first call.

- Kevin Watt

New way of working

The biggest learning curve has been the regular customer interaction. “Baking is behind the scenes, so knowing how to best relay information to the customer is something I’ve been taking tips from my tradesman for.”

Though it’s early days, he’s enjoying commercial projects the most for the technicalities involved. The one thing Kevin does admit to missing from his baking days though are the hours and says he won’t be giving up his 4am wakeups anytime soon.

“It’s my normal. After years of baking, I love mornings and getting up before everyone else.”

As for the studying, it’s taken a bit of getting used to being back on the books but Kevin credits Masterlink for their help with all his questions. So far, he has completed coursework in First Aid, Working at Heights and Confined Spaces and Gas Testing.

In between prepping for his next paper, he spends his time relaxing with his partner and friends on the North Shore and working away on his car build, a Nissan 180 SX.

“And there’s always time for baking... My favourite thing to bake is ciabatta bread.”

This article was written by Lois Oldehaver and first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine April-May 2023