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The World is Your Oyster as a Qualified Plumber, Says Senior Lecturer.

  • John Pepere

29 April 2024

Over three decades ago, John Pepere completed his plumbing apprenticeship at Unitec. After 20 years working overseas, he came back to where it all started – to share his knowledge with the next generation.

John Pepere’s career in plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying has taken him all over the world. When life brought him back to Aotearoa shores, he began sharing his knowledge and insights with the next generation. Today, John is a senior lecturer in Unitec’s Trade and Services School. 

Recently, he was invited to talk about his career journey on Radio New Zealand. We asked him to share the highlights.

The early days

Like father, like son: John Pepere followed his father – who happens to be the first Māori licensed plumber in New Zealand – into a career in plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying. He completed his apprenticeship through Unitec, and almost immediately after graduating, he was on a plane. 

“I spent 20 years overseas in Australia, the UK and Israel. All the skills I’d learned back home were transferable internationally, and over that time, I did the full scope – from residential to commercial and industrial.”

The student becomes the teacher

In 2007, John and his family moved back to his homeland. One day, he saw an advertisement: Unitec needed more plumbing lecturers. 

“15 years later, and I still love every minute of it,” John says. 

These days, John splits his time between being a senior lecturer and running his plumbing business. He believes it’s important to do both because it keeps his trade skills sharp – and that’s knowledge he can pass on to his students. 

“There's a lot more stuff they need to know around the industry – and it’s our job to make sure they walk out those doors as well-trained, effective tradespeople,” he says.

Why Unitec is a great place to teach and study

John says Unitec’s pre-trade plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying programme covers all the bread-and-butter skills, as well as some specialised areas that you won’t find in many other courses, like roofing and backflow. Then, there are the state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities.

On top of all that goodness, Unitec’s teaching team is “a collective of expert plumbers with hundreds of years of combined knowledge,” he says.

“My colleagues and I are expert plumbers who have learned how to pass on our knowledge as teachers,” John explains. “We use our experiences to help apprentices sharpen their skills while also preparing them for changes in the industry. 

“One of the biggest issues now is sustainability, so our courses look at water conservation and desalination. When I was in Israel, I worked on many industrial desalination projects, so I can draw on and share those experiences.”

The world is your oyster as a qualified plumber

After over three decades with his trade belt on, what advice does John have for pre-trade students and apprentices?

“Work smart, learn as much as you can during your apprenticeship, dedicate time to your trade – and once you’re qualified, the world is your oyster. Like any job, you’ve got to put the hours in. But you can be your own boss, you can travel overseas – you control your destiny.”

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