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Master plumbing awards ACT honour industry greats, rising stars

John Thistleton 24 May 2019
Ray Burke, Brendan Brown, Tom Banks, Nick Hervert and John Payten.

Ray Burke, Construction Manager at O’Neill and Brown plumbing, Brendan Brown, Tom Banks, Nick Hervert and John Payten. Photos: wearefound. 

Canberra’s apprentice plumber of the year Aaron Keen left the gleaming world of retailing for a career in plumbing and could not be happier.

Aaron won the top award at the Master Plumbers ACT prize-giving which celebrates the excellence of the off-the-job training conducted by Canberra Institute of Technology for plumbing apprentices and tradespeople in the ACT.

Aaron won the Ernie Deering award, which honours one of the CIT’s highly respected teachers who taught for over 30 years and ran a successful plumbing business in the ACT for more than 50 years.

Glenn Carter chief executive Training Fund Authority, Apprentice of the Year Aaron Keen and Kirrily Dearing – daughter of Ernie Dearing.

“Since day one, moving from the retail sector to plumbing, I’ve never looked back. I love being a plumber – I’m a different person now and feel I know so much,” says Aaron.

On a typical day, under the supervision of a qualified plumber, Aaron will work on 8-10 projects across different sites.

“Jobs can include standard blocked drains, investigating water leaks, servicing taps – and of course resolving issues with toilets,” he said.

Another significant award, the Colin Mills Memorial Achievement Shield, was taken out by Brendan Brown. Colin Mills was a strong advocate for an independent local master plumbers organisation. And his dream was realised in 1976 when the ACT branch of the NSW Master Plumbers and Sanitary Engineers Association become their own autonomous body.

Colin Mills Award recipient apprentice, Brendan Brown.

Colin Mills Award recipient, O’Neill & Brown apprentice Brendan Brown.

In 1977 Colin was tragically killed in an explosion while working in the basement of the Centre Cinema complex in Bunda Street, Civic. Colin’s wife Gwen asked that a perpetual shield in Colin’s memory be established for plumbing students undertaking study at the CIT.

Canberra-based, national firm O’Neill & Brown Plumbing, which delivers high-quality plumbing infrastructure, are proud that three of their plumbers received multiple awards on Friday night.

ONBP’s National Service Manager Damien Holder believes the awards are a fantastic way to recognise young apprentices of their achievement.

“It helps promote industry standards and ensure the up-and-coming plumbers in Canberra and region are trained to the highest quality and receive recognition for this,” Mr Holder says.

“O’Neill & Brown Plumbing have been members of Master Plumbers ACT for over 40 years because we understand the importance in supporting the plumbing industry. ONBP also believe that support ensures apprentices and plumbers who are coming through definitely are up to the highest standards,” Mr Holder says.

O'Neill & Brown apprentice Brendan Brown.

O’Neill & Brown apprentice Tom Banks.

Master Plumbers ACT executive officer Leigh Watson says the awards recognise plumbing skills across residential maintenance, critical ACT urban infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, and new building construction. The excellent training provided by CIT is a key.

“As residential and commercial construction continues to rise in Canberra, the demand for plumbers has increased,” Ms Watson says. “We believe our member plumbers – from sole traders to large companies employing hundreds – are contributing greatly to this critical health infrastructure in the ACT. While this is something that is often taken for granted, we would know very quickly if this wasn’t being done well,” she said.

“As the peak body representing the interests of professionally- trained and accredited plumbing businesses, Master Plumbers aims to ensure the Canberra community, industry, and government have access to up-to-date, professional, qualified and ethical plumbers.”

Nick Hervert

O’Neill & Brown apprentice Nick Hervert.

More than 2,000 plumbers in the ACT work across all sectors from individual home maintenance to large scale apartment fit-outs – a number that is bound to increase over coming years.

Award winners:

  • Cert 3, Stage 1, Aaron Keen
  • Cert 3, Stage 2, Mitchell Noujaim
  • Cert 3, Stage 3, Patrick Lonergan
  • Ernie Dearing Award – Overall Certificate 3 (Apprentice), Aaron Keen
  • Mature Age Cert 3, Scott Logan
  • Cert 4, Business Principles, Peri McDonald
  • Cert 4, Gas Fitting, Nicholas Hervert
  • Cert 4, Drainage, Timothy Shea
  • Cert 4, Sanitary, Aaron Klease
  • Cert 4, Water, Connor Voltonnen
  • Registrars (Cert 4 overall), Aaron Klease
  • Colin Mills Award, Brendan Brown
  • Plumbing Employee Award, Zach Bowden
  • Plumbing Employee Award, Jonathan Grima
  • Icon Water Award, Advanced Plumbing & Drains

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