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From horses to faucets - plumbing student wins industry award

23 Mar 2013

Eleri Dear is used to clearing hurdles on horseback but last Wednesday she took a major career leap all by herself at the Master Plumbers Gold Medal and Training Awards.

Eleri, a former equestrian, took another step closer to her dream of running her own female plumbing business when she accepted the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia's Rose Curtis Award. The award recognises female plumbing apprentices and encourages them to move forward in their plumbing career.

Eleri is one of five women currently completing their Certificate III in Plumbing at NMIT's Heidelberg campus and is apprenticed with S.M. Wilson Plumbing in Hurstbridge.

This year's Master Plumbers Awards are the first to feature female award winners in the Awards' 105-year history and reflect rapidly changing attitudes to the participation of women in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

“I didn't expect anything out of it,” said Eleri but three weeks ago she received a letter in the mail advising of her award. “I had to read it (the letter) about three times. My mum was excited about it and she didn't want me to do plumbing ... she didn't think plumbing was a 'girly' job.”

Eleri had previously worked as a rider with an equestrian trainer before deciding that she would enjoy horses more if she simply rode for fun rather than for work. Stints working as a dairy manager at Coles and as a landscaper followed before Eleri made the decision (at 26) that she really wanted a licensed trade.

When Eleri began her apprenticeship she asked some workmates about where she should do the formal component of her apprentice training and asked them what they thought about NMIT ... “they said it was a great TAFE to go to,” recalls Eleri.

NMIT Plumbing teacher, Brent Comerford, encouraged Eleri to put together a written submission to the Master Plumbers Awards. He saw potential in Eleri to succeed at the awards because she “is a hard worker ... and definitely interested in Plumbing”.

Except for once being showered with coffee granules from a bursting pipe, Eleri has enjoyed her apprenticeship and has plans to eventually run her own plumbing business and employ more female plumbers. “I'd like to eventually have a few girls working under me ... it's something that's not out there at the moment.”


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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour