Brielle’s plumbing career no longer a pipedream
LIKE a lot of teens, South Grafton's Brielle Lentfer really didn't know what she wanted to do when she 'grew up'.
"I thought it would be something in retail," the grounded 18-year-old said. "So I did my school-based traineeship at Reece Plumbing behind the trade desk."
And so the initial seeds of a career in plumbing took hold despite Brielle figuring that sort of thing wasn't an option for a girl.
"I did learn that I liked being outside and not cooped up while doing desk work, but talking to the plumbers when they came in opened up doors."
One of those plumbers was Matt Cooper, who also knew Brielle from his son's school.
"One day she mentioned that she wouldn't mind having a go at it. I thought she was joking," Matt said.
So when Brielle finished her HSC she went straight to work as a labourer with Matt in November last year.
"It was a bit full-on to start," Brielle said. "Plumbers have to know so much. There's a ridiculous amount of technical stuff to know and large ranges of skill required but I want to know everything."
Matt said he was impressed with Brielle's enthusiasm, pride in her work and ability to quickly pick things up. "She is killing them at TAFE (Coffs campus). The teachers love her."
Brielle is the only female in her class, one of only two women to go through that campus course in its history.
"She is already capable of handling paperwork and quoting as well as the physical stuff," Matt said
That includes being a whiz with the sewer jet and camera.
"People always think that the sewer is the smelly thing but urinals are 10 times as worse," Brielle said with a knowing smile.
So what do the blokes think about having a female in their domain?
"Some of the older ones are a bit funny but the younger guys are a bit more open to it," she said.
Brielle is determined to be just as capable despite the challenges of the job.
"I'd never been on a roof before but I'm really good up there now and when I started I had trouble picking up a 5kg bollard. Now I can handle a 35kg jackhammer," she said.
And as far as the customers go, they love the idea of having a female on the job.
"For the first four months everyone was saying good on her. I guess it's helping to change the way people think."
Matt said professionalism is all he cares about when it comes from his apprentices.
"She has certainly inspired a few young girls," he said.
"I've already had two others ask for jobs."