A prisoner on the plumbing course operates the hand folding metal machine.An entry level plumbing qualification could make the all difference for 11 prisoners in Rimutaka who were awarded the WelTec Certificate in Plumbing and Gasfitting (Level 3) on Wednesday.

The 17-week plumbing course is new in the prison this year and covers practical skills used in the plumbing industry like soldering, welding, metal work, gas and pipework, and knowledge of waste water systems, sanitary appliances, and stormwater systems.  First aid at work is also part of the course.

“Participating in quality education can help reduce the likelihood of re-offending,” says Mat Allen, Rimutaka Prison’s Assistant Prison Director. The course gives the men an insight into the plumbing trade. They could choose to take their skills further through additional study on release or enter a trade. They’ve also developed interpersonal skills including time management, self-respect, communication and working with others."

“We’re focused on increasing the number of higher-level qualifications prisoners can achieve in trades and technical training as this is generally what is in demand by industries,” Says Mat.

Rimutaka has an industry, treatment and learning programme where eligible prisoners take part in some form of work, education or rehabilitation programme as part of a structured 40-hour week.

Nigel Phillipson, WelTec’s Associate Head of School (Construction) said the men had demonstrated an appropriate knowledge and safe working attitudes to do basic plumbing and gasfitting skills under supervision.

“They’ve got some good skills that shows an employer they have the basics.  Some have a great eye for detail and accuracy and that’s important in a trade.  If they wish to continue their learning journey they’re welcome at WelTec.”

Associate Member of Master Plumbers and Lower Hutt Branch Manager of Plumbing World Stu Masson has seen the prisoners on their training programme at Rimutaka Prison.

“As a member of the Plumbing Industry Partnership Committee I was nominated to view the plumbing programme being delivered by WelTec at Rimutaka Prison. What blew me away was the level of commitment that was evident with those completing the course and the pride they showed in the work they were doing. They clearly were passionate about learning and genuine about using this opportunity to better themselves.  Not only were they exhibiting good skill levels, they also appeared to be genuinely thankful to have been given the education opportunity to better themselves for life after prison.”

James* hopes to use his new skills to “look for a job”, or do further study when he’s released.  “I’m a hands-on person so I could use the skills.”

In the 2015/16 financial year 4,628 qualifications were earned by prisoners. This includes 1,216 level three trade qualifications, an 89% increase from 645 in 2014/5.

As well as plumbing, Rimutaka’s trade and technical training workshops include carpentry level 2, and level 3 in brick and block, construction, painting, and plastering, as well as level 4 decorating.

Reducing re-offending is Corrections’ top priority and by helping prisoners to learn skills and earn qualifications, it could help them gain employment on release. This in turn could reduce the likelihood of re-offending and help create safer communities.