The fifth and final year of Sebastian Sekene's plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprenticeship began this September. He’s hoping to finish his qualifications on time but says it’s been a mission to getting a place on block courses at MIT for his theory learning.

"I have six block courses left, with five gasfitting modules and one plumbing module to complete," says Sebastian.

“Apprentices are getting put on whatever courses are available. I only did one last year when I should have been doing three."

A mixture of Covid lockdowns and training delivery reforms have disrupted block course schedules for apprentices up and down New Zealand, but Sebastian remains optimistic.

“I contacted Colin and Pete at Masterlink as I was worried, and they’ve reassured me I should complete on time.”

This has been helped along by Sebastian being part of a Masterlink workplace assessment pilot programme. Under the pilot, Apprentice Training Manager Pete Shields has been able to assess apprentices’ gasfitting module learning in the workplace, having become New Zealand’s first accredited assessor in plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting.

Pete examines apprentices' work in the real world and tests their knowledge of the theory they put into practice to get the job done. Apprentices who successfully pass Pete's assessment no longer have to wait for the next scheduled block course, avoiding possible delays in completing their studies.

I have six block courses left, with five gasfitting modules and one plumbing module to complete.

- Sebastian Sekene

Pete Shields workplace assessing with apprentice Sebastian Sekene
Masterlink Workplace Assessment: Sebastian (right) on site with Apprentice Training Manager Pete Shields (centre) and fellow apprentice Noah.

Workplace assessments, in combination with block courses, are expected to become the way forward when revised qualifications for our trades are released in 2024.

The next milestone for Sebastian will be to sit and pass his Tradesman registration exams, so he can apply for his Tradesman practising licence once he’s successfully qualified. He wants to sit them as early as possible “for the bragging rights” but knows it’s wise to wait until he’s covered all the topics he might get quizzed on.

“There’s a high pass mark and it costs to sit the exam*, so I don’t want to have to reapply,” he says. “Trade Lab guides you through how to pass. I plan to sign up to that nearer the time, so I know what to expect.”

*Masterlink currently provides free access to Trade Lab study resources to help apprentices prepare for their exams. The first time an apprentice sits their exam, itis paid for by their training provider, but any subsequent exam attempts are paid for by the apprentice.

Sebastian Sekene is a 22-year-old Masterlink fifth-year plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprentice, hosted by Heron Plumbing in Auckland. He currently works in the commercial division of the business.

This article is based on the story that first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine October-November 2023