Leila gets her teeth into new career

Growing up on a farm Leila Brewerton always had a love for working with her hands and being outdoors. Her first career as a dental technician satisfied one of those two loves, but after 28 years she is retraining through EarnLearn as a plumber, drainlayer, gasfitter; a job that still involves working with her hands, while also letting her get out and about “as well as on top, inside and underneath”.

The working environment might be radically different but Leila says there are several skills from her former career that have helped her along in her PGD apprenticeship, like working with her hands and problem solving.

“In both there’s something to put in front of you and you have the challenge of how you’re going to make it work. With dentures you have to work out how to make them work for the individual person. With being a plumber you might have to work out all the challenges of moving an old toilet and replacing it with a new one, and how that affects everything to do with the water.”

“It’s all about trying to make things work and coming up with a solution.”

Leila decided to make the career change when her brother Carlos was looking for someone to help out in his Waihi business Pipes2Nails. She signed up for her five-year PGD apprenticeship three years ago and hasn’t looked back.

“I love getting outdoors, getting mucky, pulling things apart and putting them back together so I always wanted something physical, and rewarding in that respect,” she says. “When I was growing up the trades weren’t for women. You never saw a woman in overalls.”

“What’s so exciting now with this trade, and other trades, you go over to Wintec and you see these girls walking around in their overalls, and they’re just part of the team. It’s not being just one of the boys, it’s being part of the team; we’re here together to help each other out, rather than it being about the girls and the boys.”

When she turns up on jobs, Leila says there might be some initial surprise, but it quickly passes as she gets on with the job. “Most people will just say ‘well done you’.”

While the physical nature of some of the work can be harder for some women, Leila says, but you get used to it, and there’s usually another set of hands around to help.

“If you’re a young woman considering a trade like this don’t let the fact it’s male-dominated or quite physical put you off.”

“After you get qualified there are so many different ways you can go, that don’t need to involve digging a trench. You can go on to certification, bathroom and kitchen layouts or pipeouts and water cylinder installations. It doesn’t have to be full-on. That’s the beauty of the whole industry.”

“Sign up to a pre-trade and give it a crack.”

Leila says the biggest challenge of her own apprenticeship so far has been hitting the books again to study, after years of working. “That has been a challenge at times; when you get home from work and need to sit down and do an assessment, or pull everything up on screen and look through screeds of code and standards trying to find the answer.”

Through it all Leila says she has had great support from EarnLearn with ease of access to standards and codes online, and practical help from her account manager when it comes to filing on-job assessments. “You can definitely get the help you need when you need it.”


See Leila’s video interview here.


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