When Blackfriars old scholar Harry Baker packs his bags to head overseas next year, he’ll include the essentials – a hard hat, some plumbers’ tape and maybe his work boots.
Mr Baker (BPS’18), who is about to finish his plumbing apprenticeship, will represent Australia at the 47th WorldSkills Competition, in Lyon, France.
The opportunity to compete against the world’s best comes after he won the gold medal in the Plumbing & Heating category at this year’s WorldSkills Australia Championships, the first South Australian to claim the title in more than 20 years.
“I went over with another lad from Adelaide, to Melbourne, and we competed against 13 other plumbers over five days of competition. It was an amazing experience,” said Mr Baker, who has also been named TAPS (Trainee & Apprentice Placement Service) Apprentice of the Year for three years running.
“Finding out that I’d won was amazing. It’s been pretty surreal. I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet.”
Finding a career path
During his years at Blackfriars, Mr Baker, who works for Stepney-based Urban Plumbing, never considered going into a trade.
“I actually remember saying I wasn’t going to do a trade,” he said.
“I worked for about year after school, doing a few odd jobs … then I saw a few of my mates who were a bit older, and went to Blackfriars as well, doing trades and decided to pick it up.
“Just looking at those friends … and seeing how well they were doing and all the new skills they were learning … that definitely interested me.”
He put his career success down to a “willingness to learn and try new things, being open-minded and always having that desire to learn new skills”.
“I think it’s like anything, it’s what you make of it,” he said.
Call to consider a trade
Mr Baker, who was captain of Blackfriars’ First XVIII during his final year at school and this year played with Blackfriars Old Scholars, encouraged Secondary students to consider a trade and take advantage of the school’s VET offerings.
“I want to show the younger kids that there are other paths you can go down that don’t necessarily involve going to university,” he said.
“A trade can be very rewarding. There is so much more to it than just going to work and being a tradie. I would never have dreamed that I would be travelling, doing weeks interstate, as a part of being an apprentice plumber.
“Last week, I presented at a National gala dinner … to a few hundred people about my experiences. I was lucky enough to go to Canberra for the Today’s Skills: Tomorrow’s Leaders Program – a week-long leadership, personal development program for apprentices and trainees across the country. That was awesome.
“It just goes to show you, the world’s your oyster with trades and apprenticeships.”
Posting on LinkedIn, Louise Murphy, Catholic Education South Australia Education Adviser, Pathways and Transitions, said Mr Baker had “achieved much” since graduating from Blackfriars.
“Too often, the career opportunities created through a VET pathway are overlooked or devalued,” Ms Murphy wrote.
“Harry has shown that through an apprenticeship, young people can not only forge a career, but thrive. It is also clear that a big part of Harry’s success is Harry himself.”