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Travis follows his pipe dream

After a broken water pipe piqued his interest in plumbing, Travis Hamilton decided to take the plunge and get a head start in his career by studying through the TAFE at School program.

For most people, a broken water pipe is nothing more than an inconvenience. But for plumbing apprentice Travis Hamilton this common household problem was the inspiration behind his career choice.

“I can remember we had an issue with a busted water pipe at our house and a family friend of ours came out to fix it,” Travis said.

“I just remember being really interested in what he was doing and wanting to know how to do it myself. It was fascinating to me, so I thought ‘why don’t I do something with this?'”

Keen to learn more and confirm whether plumbing was the right choice for him, Travis seized the opportunity to get a head start on his career while he was in Year 11 by enrolling in a Certificate II in Plumbing (52700WA) through TAFE Queensland’s TAFE at School program. The course saw Travis swap one day of school a week to attend class at the Sunshine Coast Trade Training Centre in order to gain his qualification, in addition to undertaking 50 hours of work experience during his school holidays.

“I liked that I was able to get experience in the field to test out whether I wanted to commit to it, while gaining a qualification that would help me enter the industry if I did like it,” Travis said.

“I did work experience in maintenance and thought that was pretty cool, but then I did work experience in residential and it opened my mind to an area I’d never really considered," he said.

“I discovered I really enjoy rough-in plumbing —installing plumbing in the wall cavities of new buildings —and getting to work with the different people on a job site, which I wouldn’t have known without that experience.”

Travis’ eagerness to learn and his commitment to the trade impressed his work experience provider, so when he came to them asking for labourer work and eventually an apprenticeship, they had no hesitation. Now, the 19-year-old is about to head into the third year of his apprenticeship with Beutel Plumbing and undertakes block training at TAFE Queensland’s Nambour campus, where he enjoys the hands-on learning opportunities.

“I love the environment – everyone is there because they want to learn. We just get in and do what we have to do to get the job done,” Travis said.

Travis plans to one day start a business of his own in the industry, but for now he’s focused on completing his apprenticeship and laying the groundwork for his career. It’s a goal that’s been made easier by the Queensland Government’s Free Apprenticeships for Under 25s funding, which enables eligible Queenslander’s under the age of 25 to complete their apprenticeship at no cost.

TAFE Queensland General Manager (East Coast region) Ana Rodger said the funding has removed financial barriers for apprentices like Travis and the businesses that employ them by covering the cost of their studies.

“In the wake of the building grants introduced to support the construction industry during COVID-19, employment opportunities in building infrastructure services like plumbing are anticipated to grow by 8.4 per cent over the next five years,” she said.

“The Free Apprenticeships funding assists eligible Queenslanders under the age of 25 in entering high priority trades areas, enabling them to complete their qualifications for free and save money that can instead go towards other expenses, like equipment and travel.”

Whether you’re in school and looking to get a head-start, or looking for a new career and think plumbing might be the path for you, Travis encouraged those interested to make the most of the vocational preparation courses available to them and sample the industry before they take the plunge.

“Gaining that experience in the field before you jump in is so important, because it gives you the chance to check it’s the right industry for you, as well as grow your confidence by building your skills,” Travis said.

“If you do that and you enjoy it and someone offers you an apprenticeship, I’d say grab it with both hands.”