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Industry welcomes first female plumbing apprentice

HOWRAH Plumbing has welcomed one of Tasmania’s first-ever female plumbing apprentices onto its team.

Jess Wardle, of Dowsing Point in Hobart’s northern suburbs, began her four-year apprenticeship with the commercial and domestic plumbing specialist in July.

With an Australian Defence Force background, Jess was often required to conduct water-testing duties as part of her previous role and soon found she had an affinity for the work.

After moving to Tasmania in late 2015, Jess decided to try her hand at a plumbing apprenticeship.

“It was by chance I came across the Master Plumbers Association of Tasmania while driving and, after giving them my resume, I soon found myself employed at Howrah Plumbing,” Ms Wardle, 24, said.

“In the few months I’ve been here, I have already worked on pretty much all areas of the trade and, while it is a little challenging with everything being so new to me, I am enjoying it immensely.”

Despite being a largely male-dominated profession, Jess said she was “not at all” intimidated.

“You get a few surprised looks from customers, but generally people provide me with a lot of encouragement,” she said.

“The plumbers I work with are all very supportive, they are great teachers and are all very laid back and easy to get along with.

“After completing my apprenticeship, I’m hoping to specialise in one particular area of the trade, although it’ll be a while before I pin down exactly what I’d like to do.”

Howrah Plumbing business manager Cath McDowell said the company had been operating for 30-years and during that time, both the company and plumbing industry as a whole had been very male-dominated.

Ms McDowell said in the past five-years the company had been slowly adding to its female quota.

“When I first started out in the industry as a late teenager, it was a little daunting at times being one of the only females, but I found there was always someone I could ask for advice,” she said.

“The level of respect that all of our ladies receive from our own plumbers, suppliers and general business acquaintances is very high and we will often find that they are quite protective of us.”

Ms McDowell said there were actually many benefits to being a female in the plumbing industry.

“The most apparent benefit is that we can go where men can’t, such as ladies’ change rooms, women’s safe houses and women’s prisons,” she said.

“So having that resource to draw on comes in very handy for the business and opens up opportunities to expand our range of service.

“As a business, we would really like to see more women out in the field and I think having Jess with us will help dispel the traditional image of plumbing as a male profession.”

For other young women thinking of entering a trade, Jess encouraged them to “just go for it.”

“If you feel that entering a trade is definitely what you want to do and you are passionate about it, then it’s important not to let fear deter you,” she said.

“Undertaking an apprenticeship is such a great opportunity and gives you a wealth of knowledge and resources to draw from to get you started in the industry.”

Howrah Plumbing currently has 85 employees, including nine women, across its three locations in Mornington, Burnie and Launceston.

Caption: Howrah Plumbing business manager Cath McDowell, left, with the company’s first-ever female apprentice, Jess Wardle.