16 Apr 2024

Maria Contreras Huerta wins Plumbing World national scholarship for apprentices

6:46 pm on 16 April 2024
Maria Contreras Huerta, who has won the Plumbing World national scholarship.

Maria Contreras Huerta has taken out top honours in a national contest. Photo: Supplied

A woman who has proved herself in a male-dominated trade wants to own a business so she can give others a break.

Maria Contreras Huerta has just won the Plumbing World national scholarship for apprentices.

The 22-year-old could not speak any English when she arrived in New Zealand from Chile 16 years ago.

By the time she was 14 she had her heart set on being a plumber.

A Gateway programme at school introduced her to the trade and from day one she knew it was what she wanted to do.

When a plumber came to her house to fix a hot water cylinder she took her chance, and texted Morrinsville Plumbing and Gas Services managing director Dave Strong. She showed up in her school uniform armed with her CV.

"I'm a person that wants to get things done and don't really wait around."

She had never had any doubts the job was for her.

"I love it so much because every day I'm doing something new. One day I could be doing a hot water cylinder in someone's house and then the next day I could be on a commercial site doing some stainless steel pipeout or drainage sticks so it's pretty cool."

It also made her day when customers were happy with her work.

She told Checkpoint she was feeling proud about her win because she had worked hard and put in a lot of "blood sweat and tears" since starting her apprenticeship.

Her dream was to own her own business with the goal of helping people who were struggling or did not have anyone to support them.

"Those people who don't have people to back them up and to say 'Hey you can do it, you've got this' - I want to be that person."

She would also be keen to hire disabled people who often got turned down for jobs without being given a chance to prove themselves, she said.

Huerta had observed more interest among women wanting to be plumbers.

However, she had experienced her share of "looks" or queries from customers or other workers when she arrived on site.

"Everyone's usually pretty good but you get some people who are like 'What is she doing here?' ...I'm pretty much there to work, so I'm just going to do my job. I don't care."