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Apprenticeship aims to end need for overseas plumbing training

Friday 15 March 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, Education, Features, Go Local, National


Apprenticeship aims to end need for overseas plumbing training
Pacific Plumbing and Drainage Limited’s Mamanu Emile, right, is pictured working with apprentices Nuku Pomare and Henry Tua Taoro Mataio on a site in Muri. SUPPLIED/24031430

The Cook Islands is starting a plumbing and drainage apprenticeship programme this year to give locals opportunities in the trade and reduce the need to go overseas for training.

Cook Islands Tertiary and Training Institute’s (CITTI) apprenticeship programme on plumbing and draining will start in semester two, around July.

Institute’s director, Tania Morgan, who joined last year, said four apprenticeship programmes are currently running. This year, they’ll add a new plumbing and drainage course, which will be a three-to-four-year programme.

In the past, plumbing was offered as a level three qualification or a course. However, their plumbing tutor left for the United States last year but is due back this month. CITTI is aiming to have the apprenticeship programme running in semester two.

Morgan’s comments come after Cook Islands News queried if CITTI offered an apprenticeship programme, following a question raised by Pacific Plumbing and Drainage Limited’s Mamanu Emile.

Emile, a Cook Islander plumber who returned from Australia, is passionate about creating a pathway for young people to become plumbers without having to leave the islands.

He said his friend, who had been a plumber for years in the Cook Islands, left for New Zealand and Australia. But there, he had to start all over again, spending the last 15 years completing his plumbing apprenticeship.

This inspired Emile to ask the question – whether the work his friend did in the Cook Islands for years was recognised.

Emile believes CITTI’s current programmes don’t provide the training needed for overseas recognition.

When Emile returned, he decided to create a pathway through a plumbing apprenticeship programme, so young people (boys or girls) could directly join the New Zealand or Australian workforce.

He works closely with ICE (Industry Connection for Excellence) in New Zealand, a skills group that provides apprenticeship programmes for Pacific Islanders.

Emile said they have reached out to a few organisations in Rarotonga trying to find financial support but have been unsuccessful, but he has managed to secure free tuition for the first two years.

He said he has reached out to KPA Plumbing and Supreme Plumbing in New Zealand run by Cook Islanders who now provide work experience for his apprentices.

Emile explained that even if his apprentices aren’t yet enrolled in trade school, they can gain valuable work experience in New Zealand. After returning to the Cook Islands with these skills, they can continue working as plumbers.

“We’re just passionate about plumbing, and wanting to give back to our kids. With going over there the struggles that I have with these boys is obviously accommodation and supplies, food, all that sort of stuff. We’re fortunate to have, obviously, family over there.”

Emile has one apprentice, Henry Mataio, who will be returning to New Zealand for a plumbing and gas fitting apprenticeship.

“It’s all about upskilling and providing opportunities for our young kids, who don’t necessarily want to leave the island, and they can complete their apprenticeship over here as a plumber.”

Another apprentice, Kianna Nuku Pomare, a recent high school graduate, will be heading to New Zealand for five weeks of training.

Emile also mentioned a young woman who left for Australia to pursue an electrical apprenticeship.

ICE apprenticeship manager Susan Afoa praised Emile’s initiative.

“It has been such an honour for ICE to work with Mamanu and his apprentices, being our first overseas account relationship. At ICE, we value Mamanu reaching out to us and trusting us with his apprentices,” Afoa said. “Due to the distance and location, I have been needing to work very closely with Mamanu and Sarah to be able to make things work for all parties involved.”

“Personally, catering and organising more learnings and blocks to better support them so that when the apprentices do arrive in New Zealand, they get the most of their trip whilst here.”

CITTI’s Morgan acknowledged the need for the apprenticeship programme.

The challenge has been finding qualified tutors and the appropriate accreditation, she said.

“We do have tutors on the island that would be capable of doing that. It’s just whether they’re wanting to come out in the industry to help and support.”

She said Emile has been a very big supporter of putting his workers through an apprenticeship programme.

In line with this goal, they are hoping to have their first intake in semester two of 2024.