Plumbing firm leads by example in training programmes

KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 08:10 17/11/2012

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Businesses looking for a higher calibre of staff need to look seriously at training in the workplace, a veteran Waikato tradesman says.

CF Reese Plumbing shareholder and director Aaron Rink is advising businesses to set up internships or apprenticeships that invest in young workers if they want to retain skilled professionals.

Rink himself was an apprentice of CF Reese founder Colin Reese and worked his way up in the business, eventually buying the company from his mentor.

He believes in taking young workers and giving them a chance to gain experience while learning the business culture.

"We're never a company to say there aren't enough good staff. We just get on and train our own and 90 per cent of our senior staff are ex-company apprentices who have come through the ranks," he said.

"We're consistently taking on new apprentices to keep refreshing our business and bringing in new talent."

And in the trades, it's more important than ever for companies to secure skilled staff, Rink said.

"We face a massive shortage of experienced tradespeople with the loss of the baby boomers and the Christchurch rebuild, so if you don't invest in your people you're going to be left short."

The company has seven people in training agreements at any one time.

The newest addition to the CF Reese team is this year's winner of the Gallagher Industry awards Colin Reese Memorial Scholarship, Patrick Smith.

Rink started the memorial scholarship seven years ago in honour of his mentor, and the award gives Smith, 18, a plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeship with CF Reese set to last between four to six years.

Smith said he had always had his heart set on a career in the trades and considered following his dad into motor mechanics, but after somebody suggested he try plumbing, he did a one-day-a-week internship while he was completing high school work by correspondence.

"Before that, I hadn't really known what was involved with plumbing," he said. He fitted in well with his co-workers and enjoyed the job, and at the recommendation of managing director Blair Foote, started a pre-trade course at the Waikato Institute of Technology.

As part of the course requirements, he upped his work experience to two days a week with the plumbing company.

The initiative he showed during the 10 months of unpaid work landed him the apprenticeship at the firm.

After the completion of his fourth year as an apprentice he can become a qualified plumber and after six years he will be able to register as a certified plumber and set up his own company.

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All his training fees have been covered by Masterlink and the prize pack includes a set of tools worth $1000.

"I'm completely stoked. At tech there are quite a few guys in my position where they're looking for jobs and it's quite a challenge to line stuff up," he said. "I'm quite lucky." kashka.tunstall@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato

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