Shorter plumbing course risks safety

Posted By TEU on Aug 6, 2009 |

Tertiary Update Volume 12 Number 25

The Plumbing, Gasfitting, Drainlaying & Roofing Industry Training Organisation (ITO) has set up its own private tertiary education provider in competition to Unitec and other polytechnic providers. The competing PTE appears to have arisen following a debate between the ITO and providers over the length of time apprentice plumbers should spend on theory course work.”  The ITO has been pressuring polytechnics to reduce the length of study for plumbing theory from 22 weeks to 11 weeks.

TEU president Tom Ryan says the quality of trades education, and ultimately the safety of the public, are under threat as a result.

“Plumbing lecturers have insisted on maintaining standards, but the ITO has threatened to shift programmes and students from highly regarded public providers, such as Unitec, to private providers set up by an ITO proxy. This threatens the quality of education received by our next generation of plumbers,” says Dr Ryan. “The ITO needs to respect the academic judgement and professionalism of these lecturers.”

“Under the current system, student-plumbers spend time learning about crucial safety issues, such as hot water systems. Later they repeat this learning and reflect on it. Under the ITO’s new scheme, they will look at each segment of skills once only. Halving their learning time is not good for these trainee tradespeople, and it may not be safe for the rest of us,” says Dr Ryan.

TEU understands that the ITO does not have NZQA approval for this proposal. The ITO is also offering current Unitec plumbing students a $2000 fee rebate to swap from their higher quality course to the shorter new one.

“The ITO’s job should be to ensure quality education and safety standards, but instead it is setting up its own private provider to compete against a public polytechnic with a first-class track record in the field,” says Dr Ryan.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. The pathway from student to teacher
  2. ‘MIT High’ to open next year
  3. Inequality – not only unfair but inefficient
  4. Wage data not so gloomy for educators
  5. Tolley had no brolley
  6. Australia plans national strike

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email:

Thanks to Terekhova at Flickr for the photo
Print Friendly, PDF & Email