Valentino Eyer decided on a plumbing career while still at college.

He says his father, a builder, was a big influence, always telling his son how awesome the plumbing trade is.

Valentino met Jack Rogers from Rogers & Rogers in Kaitaia and started working for him through his school’s Gateway programme. “Being able to participate in Gateway was the best thing for me,” recalls Valentino, who’s now 23. “I was able to take one day a week to get a taste for the trade. My relationship with Jack was quickly established and he was happy to wait a whole year until I finished Year 13.”

Not being afraid to ask questions and having good problem-solving skills will make a good apprentice.

- Valentino Eyer

Valentino qualified in plumbing and gasfitting in October 2020 after being a standout performer during his Masterlink apprenticeship. A 2018 Plumbing World Scholarship winner, the following year he won both the branch and regional heats of Plumbing World’s Young Plumber of the Year competition, becoming the only apprentice to reach the final, where he was recognised with a Most Valued Plumber Award.

“Being part of the competition was a real eye-opener,” he says. “I was proud of what I had achieved as an apprentice, as I had my doubts about taking on qualified competitors. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned that, no matter the circumstances, you’ve always got to give it your best.”

Now it’s Valentino’s turn to pass on his own skills to a Masterlink apprentice, with Jack giving him the responsibility to supervise 18-year-old Marcelle Petera, who started working at Rogers & Rogers earlier in the year.

Born and bred in Kaitaia, Marcelle had initially followed her parents’ advice to go to uni. “I applied for Criminology and Criminal Justice at AUT and was accepted and offered a scholarship,” she says.

Although I had that chance, university wasn’t my plan. I’ve always wanted to get into a trade and plumbing stood out to me the most.

- Marcelle Petera

Marcelle says she bugged her school trades coordinator for weeks about contacting Rogers & Rogers for work experience. “She set up a time for me to go and talk with Jack, who at the time already had his hands full with other apprentices and a work experience student.

“He offered for me to come in once a week during the school holidays to see how I would adapt. I went in every day, making sure to express how badly I wanted that apprenticeship! Eventually, months of hard

work and determination paid off and Jack sat me down to offer me the apprenticeship I was hoping for.”

Marcelle now works alongside three other apprentices at the company — and she couldn’t be happier. “I enjoy the problem solving that comes with the trade; it keeps me interested and on my toes. Ensuring I am mentally and physically prepared to meet the demands of the job makes me want to keep working. I also enjoy the constant variety of work I’m given. I like that every day is a challenge.”

Marcelle says she’s very lucky to have Valentino as a mentor.

It helps a lot that Valentino is patient and willing to answer any questions I have. He breaks down the plan for me before we get to the site/house, which allows me to think about what to expect.

- Marcelle Petera

"It’s also helpful that he gives me a task to do by myself, so that I’m not relying on him and I can get an understanding of what to do next time we do a similar job. It all adds to my experience and helps build my knowledge.”

She’s also grateful for the support she gets from Masterlink for her apprenticeship and her wellbeing. “Knowing that I have that constant support behind me if I have any questions or problems regarding work or personal matters enables me to get through my apprenticeship smoothly and helps make sure I have the full experience, which I am thankful for,” she says.

Asked what makes a good apprentice, Valentino, says it’s someone who always turns up to work on time, who is able to think for themselves, who is not afraid to ask questions and who has good problem-solving skills. Sounds like Marcelle in a nutshell.

This feature first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine Aug/Sep 2021 and includes excerpts from an

article by Peter White in Leaving School magazine Issue #23 from Oliver

Lee Publications..