CPIT plumbing tutor taps into 50 year’s industry experience

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14 Dec 2015

About five years ago, a plumbing student asked veteran CPIT plumbing tutor Phil Mitchell how to bend a piece of copper pipe to avoid having to make another join.

It was to create lettering for "Phil's Barn", built in 2008, to name the CPIT Trades facility where plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying training takes place, but Mitchell didn't know it at the time.

The copper name sign sums up the esteem both staff and students hold for the 73 year old, who is celebrating his 50 year association with the institute.  The use of copper is also a sign of how much plumbing materials have changed over the years.

"When I started work (in 1964), and went to a job, we measured up, then went back to the workshop and made the components.  Now you buy the components ready-made and they're mostly plastic."

He also teaches students how to work with copper and bend copper tube with a spring. One of his strong beliefs is that students need to learn how to work with old materials that they may encounter working in old houses today such as copper and sheet lead and how to join it.  As he points out the term "plumber" dates back to Roman times. A plumber was a worker in lead and the Latin word for lead is plumbum.

It's this sort of knowledge and diligence that formed the basis of CPIT's re-development of the plumbing section in 2005, which recently marked its 10th anniversary. Mitchell was put in charge of writing programme content and overseeing the training a new generation of trades apprentices. Between 1996 and 2005 there were no training facilities for the plumbing-related trades in the South island. All apprentices had to travel to Wellington or Hamilton for their offsite training.

Phil plumber tutor 

Phil's Barn: CPIT Trades plumbing tutor Phil Mitchell is celebrating a career spanning more than 50 years with the institute and industry.

Now having taught the grandsons and great-grandsons of his contemporaries, Mitchell looks back on a long and satisfying career.
"I've enjoyed it. As well as being my trade it's also a kind of hobby and it's kept me active and in touch with the industry."

His skills and life experience have also been taken into account through CPIT's recognition of prior learning programme, with a Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching.

And to top it all off, he recently received the Canterbury Master Plumbers Association award for outstanding service to the industry.

He's a bit coy about whether or not this means it's time to retire or slow down, because he enjoys what he does so much.

"Let's just say it was privilege to get the award and an opportunity to finish my career on a high note."