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National plumbing regulators forum 2011 Author: Jonathan Jackson 9 May 2011
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The National Plumbing Regulators Forum (NPRF) held its first conference in two and a half years at the Melbourne Convention Centre, bringing industry leaders and experts together to present and discuss topics that directly affect the plumbing industry. Jonathan Jackson reports on three days of plumbing relevance.

In his welcome address, NPRF chair Shayne La Combre states: “There is no doubt that the changes to the plumbing landscape in recent years pose many challenges to an industry committed to the health and wellbeing of our community. While we are in the recovery phase of recent earthquakes, the important role that effective plumbing systems play in the amenity of daily life has never been more apparent.

“Over the next three days there will be presentations on areas such as the national registration and licensing model, one of the most significant changes to the plumbing industry in recent times. There will also be presentations covering industry outlook and what we might expect in relation to performance over the horizon.”

Over the duration of the conference presenters looked at important issues including sustainability and its connection with the plumbing industry, globalisation, innovation and technology and technical changes.

An education
Day one was all about the educators. The day kicked off with an opening address by Nick Chiam, director of Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Youth Skills Victoria. Following Nick was Joan Whelan. Initially the presentation was to be given by Alan Ross, the CEO, Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council (CPSISC). However, Joan who has over 20 years experience working in the Vocational Education and Training sector, gave an overview of CPSISC’s projects and achievements and discussed the relationship between this organisation and RTOs, as well as the need for training packages.

Past Plumbing Connection contributor Lyle Kelson was next. Lyle is the chair of the National Plumbing and Services Training Advisory Group (NPSTAG) and gave an overview of NPSTAG’s achievements during the course of the last couple of years. There is much to like about what NPSTAG does in relation to making technical information available top both students and teachers.

Danny Schwarz gave one of the most interesting presentations of the day. Danny is the education, industry and community development manager for Youth Connect and spoke about engaging new generations at work. In making his point clear about bridging the gap between older and younger generations of the workforce, Danny made available some interesting statistics: 26% of plumbers are between 35-44 years old, with only 16% below the age of 35.

While we have spoken about skills shortages in this magazine previously, Danny pointed out that there are 100,000 potential jobs, with no workers to fill them. He therefore raised an interesting question: how do we engage young people to become involved in the industry? One of the answers is to involve them before they leave school. This is a difficult task when you consider the average school leaver will have over five careers and 20 employers in their lifetime.

Tim Powers, who is founding partner of Altegis Group continued this discussion, while also touching on continuous professional development (CPD). He made mention that CPD is more than just going to school, it is about keeping up with the changing industry as well as community expectations and it is more than just experience. In fact, Tim’s statistics show that only 29% of plumbers think experience is enough to carry them through their career.

Tim made mention of the Career Pathways Project, designed to develop further CPD programs, however there are certain things to take into account that hinder CPD. These are cost, time, relevancy and worthwhile activities. While many plumbers favour CPD, including older plumbers, they are against mandatory courses.

The other important question raised by Tim is whether the industry is a closed shop that can attract new plumbers?