Nicole moves away from the convenience of admin into on-the-job plumbing

Nicole Howarth plumbing apprentice with TAFE NSW Plumbing Teacher Dylan Sambrook.

WORKING in administration in her brother-in-law’s Coffs Coast plumbing company piqued Nicole Howarth’s interest enough for her to want to get on the tools and pack up her desk job.

Beginning her apprenticeship at TAFE NSW, the Coffs Coast woman says she is enjoying the challenge working and studying in a traditionally male-dominated field.

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“I worked in administration at Joel Street Plumbing business for five years,” Nicole told News Of The Area.

“I always found the work my brother-in-law did was very interesting and so I hopped out on the job site with him a few times which I loved.

“When opportunity arose, I jumped at it.”

Nicole was offered an apprenticeship and enrolled in a Certificate III in Plumbing at TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour.

“I love it, every job is a new challenge and I enjoy the problem-solving involved,” said Nicole.

“People tend to be a little surprised seeing a female tradie arrive, but my employer and TAFE NSW has been so supportive.

“It’s great to have TAFE NSW teachers that are connected to industry and have extensive knowledge in their field.”

No two jobs are ever the same, Nicole quickly found out.

“That’s what I love about our line of work and what our company does because there’s always issues to be solved that are not straightforward.

“Initially I was a bit daunted at the idea of starting an apprenticeship, but I go to TAFE NSW with one of my colleagues and it’s great, everyone is super supportive.

“To any other women considering a career in a trade I would say don’t be scared, take the leap, it’s so worth it,” Nicole encouraged.

With some five percent of the NSW construction workforce made up women, TAFE NSW is providing women with pathways into a range of traditional trades and already boasts a comparatively higher number of female enrolments in these courses, at six percent.

TAFE NSW Plumbing Teacher Dylan Sambrook said there’s never been a better time to consider a career in building and construction, with the Certificate III in Plumbing a nationally accredited course and fully subsidised under JobTrainer.

“We do everything we can to encourage and support women in trades at TAFE NSW and Nicole is a great example of the high standard of apprentice we’re training,” said Mr Sambrook.

“Increasing the number of women employed in the industry helps us respond to skills needs, especially in high-demand regions like the Coffs Coast.”

With demand surging thanks to the construction boom, Nicole agrees now is the time for women to pick up a trade.

“My TAFE studies are giving me a strong understanding of why and how things work, in a way that makes sense when I’m on the job.

“I’m getting the qualifications and experience I need to realise my dream,” said Nicole.

To find out more about the range of building and construction courses at TAFE NSW visit or phone 131 601.

With the NSW Government’s ambition to triple the number of women working in the construction industry being backed by a $20.2 million commitment in the 2022-23 Budget, Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport Rob Stokes said that women currently make up about five percent of the construction workforce and that Infrastructure NSW would work closely with industry to reach the 2030 goal of fifteen percent.


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