WATCH | Female plumber revamps orphanage for free on World Plumbing Day
Shamiela Cloete removes an old sink from a bathroom wall and begins removing the taps from the ceramic basin.
“When I tell people who don't know that I am a plumber, they react with, 'A plumber? Really? Why?' and I answer them with, 'Why not?' It's not just males who can do this job, females can also do it and we are here to change the world,” said Cloete.
Cloete is in her third year of a plumbing apprenticeship run by the College of Cape Town and as part of World Plumbing Day she was working alongside dozens of qualified plumbers to revamp the plumbing systems at Holy Cross Orphanage in Parow Valley on Thursday.
The plumbing outreach includes the replacement of sinks, taps and shower heads, the cleaning of older piping systems and general maintenance work in the three main buildings of the orphanage, which houses high-risk children from 2 to 17 years of age.
The higher education department is funding the plumbing apprenticeship, which includes a monthly stipend to the trainees during their three-year programme at the college. Plumbing has been recognised as a critical skill shortage in SA and the funding hopes to address the shortage of qualified plumbers.
“We have huge housing shortages and there is a tremendous need for trades people to step up and fill the void, but it seems everyone is chasing after these B.Comm degrees,” said Andre Gouws, chairperson of the Institute of Plumbing in South Africa.
“There are willing and able individuals coming through, ladies and gents - there's a lot more ladies in this trade these days - but it's how to get them upskilled as fast as possible to get them to be usable in the trade.”
Qualified plumbers are excited that these apprenticeships are being funded by the government, allowing the trainees to garner valuable experience through industry-related work.
If anyone tells me I can't do it, I laugh and tell them to give me the tool and I'll show them I can do it.Shamiela Cloete
“Most of the apprentices have gone through a selection process,” said Ryan Marsh, who is the curriculum adviser at College of Cape Town.
“We have an employer, Peninsula Plumbing and Engineering Works, who employs our apprentices as part of the training programme for them to be skilled in the occupation during their three years at the college. We have three females in the course and Shamiela has been exemplary. She has stood out as she doesn't stand back for anyone, she is eager to make a success of herself and give back to her community,” said Marsh.
Sharfudien Martin, who represents Peninsula Plumbing and Engineering Works, echoed Marsh's praise of the women in the course.
“Shamiela first did a hairdressing course but she left it because it wasn't for her, but when she picked up a wrench for the first time and a hammer and chisel, she said that was for her,” said Martin.
“There's been no discrimination against me by people in the industry,” said Cloete.
“If anyone tells me I can't do it, I laugh and tell them to give me the tool and I'll show them I can do it.”