Leading The Way: Auckland Apprentice Wins National Plumbing Scholarship

Leading The Way: Auckland Apprentice Wins National Plumbing Scholarship

Auckland-based trainee Sebastian Sekene not only won a Plumbing World Scholarship but was also named the Overall Scholarship Winner at the 2023 National New Zealand Plumbing Awards, held on Friday 5th May at the Te Pae Convention Center in Christchurch.

Unlike his other siblings, Sebastian didn’t enjoy school. He didn’t want to go to university, so his mother said he had to get a job. One day he was sitting in an engineering class when a teacher asked him if anyone would like to be a plumber.

Sebastian spoke to his school’s careers advisor, who directed him to complete a pre-employment course at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). Then, at the age of 18, he landed an apprenticeship as a plumber, gas fitter, and drain fitter through Masterlink at Heron Plumbing.

Sebastian had no idea anyone else in his family had been a plumber until an elderly tradesman in Heron recognized his family name and told him he used to work for his grandfather in Niue.

Sebastian was nominated for a grant by Tom Poole, Contracts Manager at Heron Plumbing.

Tom says: “Sebastian has matured over the past three years. When he came back from his Outward Bound program, we noticed a huge jump. Sebastian is now trying to encourage our younger team members to get better at everything they do in both their areas of work and personal life.”

Sebastian won a Masterlink Outward Bound grant in 2022. He spent 16 days at Anakiwa with other construction apprentices as part of a Building Leaders course.

He says it was the best thing he’s ever done and it really opened his eyes to what kind of person and leader he wants to be in the industry.

“According to other people who know me, I’ve obviously come out of class a lot more mature and brighter, but I think I’m still the same old Sebastian.”

Sebastian is now 22 years old and in the fourth year of his five-year apprenticeship. He admits that he has progressed a lot in the last 12 months of his training.

“Now I run my own big jobs and work alone most of the time. Compared to me at this point last year I am light years further than I was but that is also due to the people who have passed on their knowledge and experience to me.

“It’s still scary going to a construction site to get a job done, but it’s also part of the challenge that I enjoy.”

Tom explains: “Sebastian has been tasked with completing two medium-sized commercial projects, while the senior site managers running the jobs have been detached to start new projects.

“During this time, Sebastian has shown that he is true to his job and determined to develop into a site manager so he gets the chance to lead a project from start to finish.”

“Both projects were completed to a high standard and feedback from our customers has been consistently positive.”

Since October 2022, Sebastian has been writing a bi-monthly column for NZ Plumber magazine, sharing what it’s like to be an apprentice and what he loves about plumbing.

“For me, to be honest, it’s just as fundamental as supplying water to buildings. It gives me a boost to know that I’ve helped provide people with clean water to meet their daily needs. I pride myself on the fact that my work literally has an impact on other people’s lives.”

Sebastian’s next magazine column is about winning the Plumbing World Scholarship and attending the NZ Plumbing Conference for the first time. He also participated in the panel discussion “Women & Diversity” and shared his experiences to an appreciative audience.

Tom says: “Sebastian has been an asset to Heron Plumbing as he has shown he can step in when needed.”

Sebastian wins a certificate and $1,000 to spend at his local Plumbing World store. As the overall winner of the scholarship, Sebastian received a trophy and full registration for the NZ Plumbing Conference 2023, including travel and accommodation, and a complimentary ticket to the awards ceremony.

About Plumbing World Scholarships

Plumbing World scholarships are awarded to Masterlink trainees who have demonstrated diligence and a passion for the industry throughout their studies.

About the New Zealand Plumbing Awards

The New Zealand Plumbing Awards recognize the many positive achievements and success stories in the plumbing, gas fittings and drainage industry. They will be presented at a gala dinner on the final night of the annual New Zealand Plumbing Conference. Organized by Master Plumbers, the national conference has been held for over 100 years and is the industry’s premier event, with attendees from across the country.

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