A chance remark by Kelly Adam’s marriage celebrant led to him to quitting his former career and becoming a plumber.

The celebrant, a plumber himself, was chatting about various aspects of Adam’s upcoming nuptials when he sprung the idea on the 31-year-old
husband-to-be.

“We were just having a casual conversation before the wedding and he asked me how my work was going. I said it was terrible and he suggested becoming a plumber. I said, ‘Nah, I’m too old’.”

When Adam was at school at Kaikorai Valley College, everyone expected he would go to university. The school itself had speakers in from Otago University, but none for trades or other alternative careers.

It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, that Adam signed up for a Bachelor of Commerce degree, which he duly completed. He never actually worked as an accountant, despite quite enjoying the latter years of the degree.

“I picked up a job at Gardens New World supermarket and worked my way up until I became a manager,” says Adam.

Then aged 27, he headed overseas for four months, then worked in a golf shop for the next few years, which wasn’t highly lucrative.

Adam had never considered plumbing until the chance conversation with the celebrant.
It stuck in his head, however, and he did what he describes as “light-hearted research”, he says. “I got the impression that if you are under 25 it is easy and over 25 it is hard.”
He was still toying with the idea when he started chatting with a friend who happened to be a plumber. “He said to me: ‘This is the road for you and we can offer you a job’.” Next thing, Adam was starting his apprenticeship.

The experience of having been to university helped Adam with his study through the Masterlink apprenticeship programme from Master Plumbers. Other students looked to him for help to get through their exams.

Although he fell into the career change from business to plumbing almost by accident, Adam loves the job and says what he enjoys most is the problem solving and the autonomy he has on the job. He works on high-value contracts with Fonterra, Speights and his old university.

Top newly qualified apprentice

Adam, who did his apprenticeship through Impact Roofing & Plumbing in Dunedin, has recently won the James Douglas Medallion at the 2018 New Zealand Plumbing Awards, making him the top newly qualified apprentice across plumbing, gas fitting or drain laying in New Zealand.

Masterlink mentor Roger Herd nominated him for the award, noting Adam’s strong work ethic, attention to detail and willingness to assist other apprentices. The judges commented that with an accounting degree under his belt, Adam is well placed to run his own plumbing business someday. He wins a Career Development Scholarship.

When he reflects on the choice he made as a teenager in going to university, Adam says he doesn’t regret it, even though he left study with a $28,000 debt. “University gives you critical thinking and that will help me in the future and has done in the past. I certainly don’t regret university,” he says.

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