Hunter Turner's the ultimate multi-tasker and a firm believer that you only get out of life what you put in. For the last four years the 22-year old apprentice has been holding down a full-time job at J&J Plumbing and Gas, while keeping up to speed with his apprenticeship studies. Add to that, "hours spent in grandad's shed" pipe bending and soldering to get ready for the trades-version of the Olympics, and he's pretty busy. It's a juggling act that Hunter's mastered, with a little help from grandad.
WorldSkills International is the name, and plumbing is Hunter's game, "it's the world's biggest skilled competition for young people, it's pretty hard out," he reminds me. Representing WorldSkills New Zealand in Abu Dhabi, and facing off against 30 plumbers from around the world, brought out the competitor in Hunter, "little ol’ New Zealand, we've got teeth like tigers,” he says. It was that tiger-like instinct which helped him overcome a few hurdles and earn his stripes over the four-day competition. "Some competitors from other countries have full training for six weeks straight ... and overseas they use Rothenberger copper pipe benders, not the ones we use here, so it's like starting from square one," he concedes. "l try not to think about what sort of advantages they had over us
Back home in Auckland and hard at work, Hunter looks chuffed about bringing home a Medallion of Excellence for Plumbing & Heating, and placing eighth in the world. He’s coy about where he keeps his prized and somewhat weighty medallion which is made of desert sands. Nevertheless, it's sure to be watched over by his biggest supporter and housemate, grandad, who was invested in Hunter's mission, boots 'n' all. Grandad "bought me some boots years ago and I sort of call them my lucky boots. Steel-capped boots which I use for competition." I put it to him that they're the equivalent of yachtsman Sir Peter Blake's lucky red socks, "yeah, pretty much," he laughs.
Hunter, who signed up for his plumbing apprenticeship through Skills, now has his sights set on "the next chapter", ticking his career goals off the list. Taking a deep breath, he rattles through them, "l want to get certified and go out on my own, do high-spec plumbing, gasfitting installations, everything. I want to be open to roofing maintenance, do high-spec homes, promote water conservation and energy conserving techniques in plumbing. It won't be just plain ol' Hunter Turner Plumbing
Before he tackles that list, there's some giving back to do. I want to "give my WorldSkills New Zealand Plumbing and Heating expert, Bryan Smith, a call. He's got a lot of jobs to do around his house, and I want to sort out a good weekend for me to go and get them done." It's just to "say thanks", Hunter says, for his hours and hours of coaching and advice. The medallion winner, who is six months shy of completing his apprenticeship, is humble in his triumph, reminding me to congratulate Jarrod Wood, “he won New Zealand's second WorldSkills gold medal for aircraft maintenance
With one exam under his belt and another to come this weekend, Hunter's training nights have now turned into study nights. But with his winning attitude, I'm sure he'll come out on top
Hunter was interviewed by Vanessa Forrest (Skills, Communications Adviser).
Photo credit: WorldSkills New Zealand