Andrew Smith is living the dream

He's in the fourth year of a five-year plumbing, gasfitting, and drainlaying apprenticeship – earning while he learns.

At St Patrick’s College in Wellington, Andrew took Physical Education, Technology, Food and Nutrition, as well as participating in the Gateway programme, in Year 13.

The 21-year-old says Gateway was the final deciding factor to become a plumber. “Gateway sorted me out with a company. I worked there every Friday. I was quite lucky to get Glennies Plumbing in Wellington, where I am working now.

“At the end of Year 13, I had a meeting with them and asked for an apprenticeship. They work closely with Masterlink and it all went from there and I signed up for my apprenticeship.”

Andrew says the great thing with Masterlink is you have a mentor, who acts as a middleperson and who is with you and supporting you, all the time.

They follow you through your apprenticeship, keeping you up-to-date with your bookwork and stuff like that. You have a meeting every three months and get a progress report. Masterlink offer a whole lot more opportunities as well – like different scholarships for different things, such as Outward Bound.

Andrew says if there is a shortage of work at the company you are with, Masterlink can assist by seeking placements with other companies – either in the short-term or longer.

One of the things Andrew loves about his career is how every day at work brings new challenges for an apprentice plumber.

“I am quite lucky with Glennies that I have such a wide variety of work. It might be a big job you are on for a few days, to going around and doing a whole lot of maintenance work on gas, drainage and plumbing.”

Gas work is his favourite of the three specialities. He likes the procedures of the gas-testing side of things and installing new appliances. “I find the work quite rewarding.”

Andrew also loves getting paid to learn on-the-job during his apprenticeship “You do your five days a week working and there are options to do overtime as well. I quite enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it and having the money to be able to buy and do the things I want straight out of school.”

His goals are to first finish his apprenticeship, get all his exams done, and then after two years as a tradesperson, he wants to get his certifying licence – the highest class of licence for plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers.

Once you have got that, the possibilities are kind of endless. You can go overseas and work because the New Zealand ticket is well-recognised or stay local and start-up a company.

Andrew says there is a bright future for school leavers getting into trades.

“There is always work no matter what trade you do. You just need a good attitude, to work hard and be willing to learn as much as you can in the first few years."

This article first appeared in Leaving School magazine Issue #23