Esmey Parata can’t speak highly enough about her plumbing apprenticeship.

Plumbing was not included in careers advice at the girls’ high school Esmey Parata attended. Instead, she was strongly encouraged to go to university – but Esmey liked working with her hands and didn’t want a desk job.

Hearing her brother’s and dad’s experiences of the plumbing industry opened her eyes to a potential career in the trade. A chance conversation in her local bank put Esmey in touch with Masterlink regional manager Roger Herd.

Masterlink is a nationwide scheme that employs apprentices in plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying, matches them with firms and mentors them through to their qualifications.

“Roger helped me with job experience and found me a place with a host company. He’s so
supportive and I’m really thankful to him – and to my boss Sean Reynolds for giving me this opportunity.”

Esmey is nine months into her four-year apprenticeship with Dunedin firm Gas & Water Ltd. She says she’s “fallen in love” with plumbing.

“I’m constantly learning… and I have an income,” says Esmey. “It is hard work but fun. It’s cool trying different things. There’s never a dull moment.”

Esmey is receiving on-job training in plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying. So far her work has involved gas installations, bathroom renovations and big outdoor jobs. An early highlight was using a digger to rip up a school field and create trenches.

She enjoys the construction work involved and the wide variety of people she meets – and
the more she learns, the more confident she becomes.

She recently completed her first block course on brazing (heating steel) using an oxy- acetylene torch. “It was good being part of a group all doing that for the first time – knowing you’re not the only one facing a new challenge.”

To her surprise, she’s also become a fan of clearing drains.

“Drain clearing is problem-solving and – this might sound gross – I just love the sound! You
feel that solid blockage, get to work on it, then it’s gone and you hear the water flowing… I find that really satisfying.”

She’s not fussed when people say plumbing’s not a female job. “I know I’m just as capable as the guys. We’re like a family at Gas & Water and all get along really well. The team has been incredibly welcoming.”

Esmey feels women bring a fresh dynamic to a male-dominated environment.

“We have a different way of thinking and doing things. We bring a whole different vibe
to a team.”

Esmey’s proud to have inspired one of her friends to pursue a career in plumbing.

“She was jealous of all the fun I’m having!” she says.

Once fully qualified, Esmey hopes to have her own business and, in due course, take on her own apprentices. And she’ll tell them the plumbing trade’s not as scary as they may
think.

“A lot of people think a career in plumbing is just fixing toilets, but it’s way more than that. I’m passionate about opening people’s eyes to the possibilities. Everyone should do it!”

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