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Accolades flow for Wintec’s Māori and Pacific plumbing kaimahi and ākonga

Wintec Plumbing tutor Selwyn Hikuroa (centre) receiving a Master Plumber’s Association ‘Outstanding Services to the Industry Award’, with Nick Rankin Sales Manager Dux Industries (left), and David Whitfield, Waikato Master Plumbers President (right). 

2023 was a piping hot year for Māori and Pacific plumbing kaimahi (staff) and ākonga (students) at Wintec | Te Pūkenga, with a surge of accolades highlighting the calibre of Wintec’s plumbing whānau both on the teaching staff and in the classroom.

A lifetime of valued service recognised for plumbing kaiako  

Plumbing kaiako (tutor) Selwyn Hikuroa, of Te Pahu, was appointed to the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board by Minister Hon Dr Megan Woods.

Alongside this kudos, Hikuroa was also awarded a Master Plumber’s Association ‘Outstanding Services to the Industry Award’ in 2023 sponsored by Dux. This award is for a person who has made a difference in the industry and is given in recognition of the value and commitment that they have made to the Plumbing industry.

Hikuroa has taught three generations of Waikato businesses, including a number of Wintec staff, and he has developed incredible relationships throughout the sector. 

Amy Opperman, Team Manager for Wintec’s Centre for Trades, based at the Rotokauri Campus in Hamilton, put together Hikuroa’s nomination, which highlighted the huge contribution he has made to the industry and to Wintec ākonga. The nomination also included significant input from both local businesses and other staff.

Following his Outstanding Service to the Industry Award, Hikuroa has now also received three nominations for the National Plumbing Awards’ Graeme Victor Smith's Contribution to the Industry Award. These nominations recognise his outstanding contribution to the Plumbing, Gasfitting, and Drainlaying industry in particular in developing young apprentices both nationally and internationally, as well as his deep commitment to Māori and Pacifica and leadership of teaching staff at Wintec. This award will be presented at the Master Plumbers national conference in Wellington in April 2024, which Selwyn and Amy will attend.  

“We have a strong Māori and Pacific representation in our pre-trade plumbing courses and Selwyn is a leader and kaumatua to this whānau,” said Opperman. 

“We work really hard to retain those trainees and support them to pathway into the apprenticeship programme and Selwyn is critical in this space.” 

The pre-trade programme provides all the hands-on skills and theory ākonga require to enter the plumbing, gasfitting, and drainlaying industries. Importantly, and a key part of setting ākonga up for success, is that the team also support ākonga to get all the relevant tickets and licences they need to become employable. These can include first aid, driver’s licences and health and safety tickets. 

Opperman adds, “we’re also really lucky to have a fantastic Work Broker, Kaleo Benavides, who works with the students to help them find and secure employment”.

Māori and Pacific plumbing ākonga shine

Plumbing students also shone at He Puāwaitanga, Wintec’s Māori and Pacific ākonga and kaimahi awards, with plumbing ākonga taking out both the Top Māori and Top Pacific Ākonga Awards for Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT). Noah O’Brien (Pohara, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura), was recognised as the top Māori MPPT ākonga, and Brooklin Toia (Mutalau, Hakupu, Nuku’alofa, Niue, Tonga), the top Pacific ākonga. 

"It is very rare that both top Māori and top Pacific ākonga is awarded to ākonga in the same trade, so clearly these two were both very deserving,” said Opperman. 

“I think there’s a really neat story amongst all this success, that Wintec’s plumbing team is genuinely working to live the values that help to build up all our students, but particularly work really well for our Māori and Pacific ākonga,” she shared proudly. 

MPTT Top Māori Ākonga Award winner Noah O’Brien receiving his award at his workplace FB Hall.


MPTT Top Pacific Student Award winner Brooklin Tōia (centre) with the industry guest speaker Jacob Smith Ngāti Kahu (left) and MPTT Kaituhono Mahi | Work Broker, Kaleo Benavides (right).

Presenting at Wintec's He Puāwaitanga | Māori and Pacific ākonga and kaimahi awards, as the industry Guest Speaker, was past Wintec plumbing ākonga Jacob Smith, who is now a major shareholder in local business Plumbing and Gas Works.

In his speech, Smith talked about how with success, comes major responsibility to not just pave the way forward, but also to raise others up with you - a mantra that drives his business to put significant effort into training and developing their apprentices.     

Following such success in Wintec’s plumbing whānau in 2023, Opperman is excited for what 2024 will bring. “Plumbing is such a dynamic trade, and it provides really good employment opportunities, so our team is really passionate about sharing their skills, knowledge, and experience with our upcoming ākonga. 

“We have fantastic industry support, with local businesses coming to our inductions and meeting our new ākonga. Connecting industry to our programme from the get-go is critical in our ākonga success. We simply cannot do it without them!”

About Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT)

MPTT provides free training to 16-40-year-old Māori and Pacific students across a wide range of trades, which as well as plumbing, include construction, culinary and food services, horticulture, hairdressing and engineering. It was created with the support of Government funding to address the nationwide shortage of skilled tradespeople. Wintec joined a group of Iwi and Pacific community groups, employers and ITOs to develop programmes that bring together the best learning, support and experience.

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