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Connections with

South Africa An interview with Ryan Marsh

Cape Town based World Plumbing Council Scholarship winner Ryan Marsh visited Melbourne earlier this year as a guest of Cooke & Dowsett. He was exposed to a range of plumbing disciplines very different to the way things work in his home country of South Africa. He is an ambassador for the profession in his country and currently National Expert of Plumbing and Heating at Worldskills South Africa, as well as a Program Manager at Northlink College, and a former Lecturer in Civil Engineering and Building Construction at Boland College. Here Ryan sheds light on the challenges plumbers in South Africa face and what’s going on in the training centre he manages. Can you talk to us more about plumbing in South Africa and how you are trying to change perceptions about plumbing as a career in your country?

You run some progressive training centres in South Africa, can you talk to us more about this and about what your objectives are?

I respect and acknowledge the training system that is currently applied to train plumbers in South Africa. This system, along with a diverse apprenticeship background, has equipped me with the ability to excel exponentially within my industry. However I do feel that it is time for this system to be renovated to encompass more modern developments in the industry, so that we are able to really train plumbers of the future, who are able to meet any challenges within an ever-evolving industry head on.

I am fortunate to be in the service of one of the leading vocational training institutions within the Western Cape. The campus where I am based used to be run by a historical stalwart in vocation education and training, for decades. Northlink college has taken over these training venues and continue to produce most of the building and civil artisans in Johannesburg.

I am currently at the helm of managing a practical training and trade testing centre, a position that I never dreamt of being in, but my need for establishing admiration for my skill has lead me here. As I progressed in my career as a plumber I realised that there are many inexperienced plumbers and laymen who were ruining the image and reputation of plumbers nationally. I figured that the only possible way to change the mindsets and improve the skill sets of these individuals would be to migrate to education and training.

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My objective as the program manager, is to modernise and adapt these traditional venues so that they are recognised as centres of excellence nationally. Training needs to be linked to the latest developments and market trends, but relative to the needs of the industry so that graduates are easily integrated into the much-needed workforce that will ultimately drive the growth of our economy.

How important are properly trained plumbers in South Africa? In South Africa, plumbing has been identified as one of the most critical scarce skills in our country. Hence, there is a huge drive by the Department of Higher Education and Training, via

the ‘Decade of the Artisan‘ initiative, to train and rejuvenate these trades that have seen a severely dwindling number. Additional factors, including the severe weather conditions like the current drought that is being experienced in Cape Town, have highlighted the importance of highly skilled plumbers. Interact Media South Africa has a publication titled Plumbing Africa which, alongside the Institute of Plumbing South Africa, also advocates the important role of plumbers and the development of the plumbing industry comprehensively. To some, the word plumbing will remain taboo, until they are faced with the stark reality of not having access to safe potable water or basic sanitation. To others the plumbing industry is just a job that pays good money. For the rest of us, it is an honor to take care of the health of a nation.

Go to to read the full interview from Ryan, including his thoughts on the 44th International Worldskills competition in Abu Dhabi and what happened when Community Plumbing Challenge was held in South Africa.

Australian Magazine December 2017  

For over 25 years, Australian Plumbing has been the industry’s leading publication, delivering independent coverage of news and events.

Australian Magazine December 2017  

For over 25 years, Australian Plumbing has been the industry’s leading publication, delivering independent coverage of news and events.