MIT plumber wins gold at WorldSkills NZ

At just 20 years old, Hunter Turner has just been named New Zealand’s best young plumber.

The Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate beat tough contenders from all over New Zealand during the vocational skills competition in Hamilton last weekend (Oct 1-2).

Dubbed ‘the Olympics of Trade’, WorldSkills is the world’s biggest vocational skills competition, and will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

“It’s amazing,” says Hunter. “The competition took two full days, and it was physically and mentally exhausting. The first day, comparing myself to the others took a real toll on my brain. But the second day I was a machine. I was pretty proud of myself.”

After coming a close second in the 2014 national competition, Hunter is excited about finally making the international event.

“Going to Abu Dhabi and being able to compete against the whole world, that’s next level. The opportunities that will arise from the competition are unreal.”

“The competition is amazing. I’ll be 21 soon, so it’s my last turn – but I’d really encourage the next generation to step up and give it a go.”

Hunter has been training and working in plumbing and gas-fitting since 2013. He was first introduced to the trade during a visit to MIT’s workshops while he was at Selwyn College.

“All through school, people said I was good with my hands. I like to make things. That’s really helped.”

“In plumbing, there’s something new every day. There are new challenges, there is always something to learn and improve on.” From there, Hunter quickly found work experience while he was studying, and was offered an apprenticeship as soon as he finished.

He now works at J&J Plumbing and Gasfitting, who sponsored him to enter the competition. “They’re pretty pleased. My boss said good job and shook my hand, which is kind of rare.”

Hunter aims to start his own company one day, specialising in water conservation solutions. “As the population rises, our need for water is growing. It’s our most valuable resource. I want to do something that’s going to help the planet, because us plumbers are on the front line.”

Hunter currently lives in Meadowbank with his 92 year old grandfather. “He’s helped me out,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here without him.”

The World Skills international competition is a bi-annual event that promotes excellence in vocational careers. Competitors are under the age of 23 and represent the best talent from 44 countries. Information about the competition can be found on the World Skills New Zealand and World Skills International websites.