Plumb job opens horizons

Plumbing apprentice of the year Rowan Morton flanked by Ken Gardner (left) of Master Plumbers Victoria and Shayne La Combre, CEO of PICAC Victoria.
Plumbing apprentice of the year Rowan Morton flanked by Ken Gardner (left) of Master Plumbers Victoria and Shayne La Combre, CEO of PICAC Victoria.

Former Tenterfield High School (THS)  student-turned-plumber Rowan Morton is US-bound after taking out this year’s national apprentice skills competition to mark World Plumbing Day.

After a series of interviews to ascertain he will represent the Australian industry well, Mr Morton will spend eight days in competition at the United Association International Skills Competition in Michigan although he admits his chances of success are slim.

“I’ll be playing by their rules,” he said.

While the US plumbing industry is more advanced in some aspects, Mr Morton said they are very behind in others, using some techniques that are now illegal in Australia.

Rowan in action.

Rowan in action.

Competition organisers also aren’t very forthcoming about what the competition entails making it harder to prepare, but Mr Morton said it will be great experience.

“I’ll give it a good crack,” he said.

He graduated from THS in 2008 before working in dad Richard’s business as a chippy when the opportunity to enter a plumbing apprenticeship came up, and he has never looked back.

He works on the Sunshine Coast for Beavis and Bartels, and is now in the third year of his four-year apprenticeship.

On finishing it will take another 12-18 months to complete his Certificate IV.

After being nominated by his trades college he found himself in Melbourne in the Apprentice Skills Competition up against 18 apprentices from across Australia.

The intensive day-long comp tested their skills in roughing in, fitting out, gas and drainage.

Mr Morton said he was ‘pretty surprised’ to hear himself named the winner.

At 26 he was considered the old man of the group, competing against some quick and nimble competitors.

The Victorian plumbing rule book is also different to the Queensland one he’s accustomed to, so altering his standing operating procedures for the US competition is something he’s used to.

While the Certificate IV will give him the qualifications he needs to start up his own business, he has no plans on that front. 

Back home on the Sunshine Coast, the best part of his job is that there isn’t a blocked toilet in sight. He works on major construction projects with copper pipes up to 150mm in diametre and 300mm drainage pipes, and they’re all brand new.

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