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Cath McDowell knows she’s unique in the industry. She recently took ownership of Howrah Plumbing, after a 25-year career path at the company from Receptionist, Admin Officer to Business Manager.

Helping others enter the industry

Going into the construction industry was the best fit for Cath. “I completed two weeks of Year Eleven and decided it wasn’t for me,” she says. “I just didn’t want to be there!” Today, a big part of her role as a business owner is helping others enter the industry.

“I sit on the board for the Master Plumbers Association Tasmania and the MPAT Education Committee. I’m quite involved with the industry and training of our people. I’m completing a Uni course at the moment in Construction Management.

“We currently have about twelve apprentices working in our teams. Every year as they complete to become plumbers, we put new apprentices on. I really am a strong advocate for training and teaching our apprentices and building up the industry as much as we can.”

Cath provides training plans for her plumbers, as well as funding and time away from work to build on their qualifications. “About 90% of our apprentices go on to do Certificate IV. It means they can do specialised work and provide a better overall service to our customers. That’s how you progress in your career.”

Nurturing female apprentices

Cath says the construction industry has many more women on worksites than when she started out, but it can still be intimidating for young female apprentices. She helps them build confidence in smaller domestic maintenance teams, before going on larger work sites.

“I might stay on site for part of the day until the apprentice feels comfortable and I’ll introduce her to the people she’ll be working with. For new female apprentices to know that they have support on the job, in the office or at TAFE, really does make a difference.”

Commitment to culture

For Cath it’s the little things that make a difference, like taking coffees out to a whole worksite, or group training sessions at the gym next door.

“It’s a great team. Everyone gets on so well together. Everyone enjoys what they’re doing every day. And it’s a good environment to be in. I quite often sit in my office, and I’ve got two office girls downstairs and I can just hear their laughter.”

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. Being a woman in the industry, there’s not many of us at this level. I love my job because it’s got variety; I’m not just stuck in the office all the time.
Keystone Tasmania
Keystone Tasmania is the peak organisation facilitating building and construction industry workforce development in Tasmania.
We acknowledge the palawa people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we learn and work. We honour their enduring culture and knowledges as vital to the self-determination, wellbeing and resilience of their communities.

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