Meet Glendon Garthwaite, WorldSkills South Africa’s 2015 Champion for Plumbing and Heating, and indeed the embodiment of how cool it is to be a 21st Century Artisan.
Glendon Garthwaite, WorldSkills SA Plumbing & Heating Champion 2015
Glendon, a 19-year old plumbing apprentice holds an N2 in Plumbing through his studies at College of Cape Town’s Thornton Campus and is currently working as an apprentice for Purple Plumbing in Cape Town. He has to date gained more than a year’s practical experience in his chosen career through working during holidays and over weekends.
We met up with Glendon to find out more about his passion for his career and his preparations for the WorldSkills International Competition taking place in São Paulo, Brazil in August 2015.
The first thing that strikes one when meeting this young man is his quiet smile and humility, but his passion for his chosen artisanal career and the excitement at where his skills can take him quickly indicate why this young apprentice is destined to succeed.
What does your job entail?
“I spend my days doing what I love, applying my skills and learning new skills all the time. My job as an apprentice plumber consists of repairing and installing geysers and hot water systems; the installation of sanitary ware and solar geysers; doing renovations to bathrooms and cleaning drainage and sewage systems.
A standard work day would be from 08h00 to 18h00, where I try to get as much work done as possible during the day, but as plumbers we also often deal with emergencies after hours and over weekends.
Depending on the schedule for the day, we do five jobs per day on average. When emergencies occur, we obviously do more and work longer hours to ensure that our clients are assisted.
A large part of my time is spent on the road, not only travelling between jobs, but also visiting suppliers and preparing quotations for clients. We serve clients across the Cape Peninsula and Stellenbosch and travel to wherever the client needs our services.”
What is the best part of your job?
“I especially enjoy the jobs that place me under a lot of pressure, such as my being responsible for doing an installation on my own. These opportunities allow me to do the work by myself and prove my skills and abilities to my supervisor.”
What is the worst part of your job?
“The worst part is definitely those times where I make a mistake and have to redo the job. I take that as a challenge though and truly enjoy what I do.”
Why did you choose this career?
“I have always been practically inclined and thoroughly enjoy practical work where I am able to use my hands to solve problems or make something new. The results of my efforts are visible immediately, which definitely helps to motivate me. Using my skills and doing practical work is also a great stress reliever for me.”
How do you prepare for competitions such as the WorldSkills Regional and National Skills Competitions?
“I participated in a Western Cape Inter-College competition in 2014, as well as the WorldSkills SA Regional Competition, and then the National Skills Competition in January 2015.
I had just completed my practical modules at college before the Inter-College competition in 2014, so the knowledge was still fresh in my mind. This, together with the excellent support I received from my lecturers, especially Mr Schroeder, helped prepare me to compete at a technical level. The guidance and support received from my lecturers ensured that I knew what to expect, thereby allowing me to go home and practice all my skills and prepare for the competition. I like to be organised and work in a clean environment, so planning my work area also helped to give me the edge during the competition. This is also how I approach my daily work, and it is very effective.
(f.l.t.r) Mr Pat Lawrence (Academic Manager), Mr Jamie Holtzhauzen (Lecturer), Glendon Garthwaite, Mr Fazlie Schroeder (Lecturer) and Mr JT Abrahams (Programme Manager, Building & Civil Engineering)
For the Regional Competition it was important that I attend not only to my practical skills, but also being prepared mentally. I used the orientation time before the competition started to familiarize myself with the work stations and to plan and prepare what had to be done, where, when and how. The time provided to competitors before the start of the actual tasks also allowed me to prepare my tools and do the necessary measurements before the time.
The National Skills Competition was a new but very exciting challenge that not only helped me see what to expect of the international competition to an extent, but also to develop my personal and soft skills. I am naturally very introverted and initially suffered from nervous fear, especially at meeting the other unknown competitors from across the country. This nervousness however quickly disappeared during the team-building opportunities that allowed us to get into the right mind-set whilst getting to know the other competitors. The opportunity allowed me to establish new relationships, which will certainly help me in the long run.
On a technical level, the tasks and tests chosen allowed me to showcase all the skills I have been working so hard to develop and fine-tune during my studies and my apprenticeship. It was very exciting for me to have to do a full bathroom installation by myself for the first time!”
What was your first thought/reaction when you received the news that you have been selected as the South African Champion in Plumbing and Heating?
“I was at work and got the exciting news via my mother. I am incredibly excited about being acknowledged and selected as the WorldSkills SA champion to represent my country in Brazil. Attending the competition will also be my first trip outside of South Africa’s borders, so I am really looking forward to it all. I’m even considering learning some Portuguese.”
What are you looking forward to most about being part of Team SA going to Brazil?
“Besides the excitement of competing at international level and learning from the experience, I am really looking forward to sharing the experience with friends I made during the National Skills Show. I look forward to being part of the official team representing my country, and of course enjoying my first trip overseas.”
What will your preparations for going to Brazil entail?
“At this stage we haven’t received the details on the formal training and preparations to be arranged by WorldSkills South Africa. I look forward to the preparations though and will give it my all.”
Why is it cool to be a 21st Century Artisan?
“Being an artisan is cool because I have the opportunity each day to solve problems using my skills, knowing that I fixed something. I make it cool for myself because I look forward to each day and each job as a challenge. I meet different people every day and I get to work with really cool tools, especially with all the modernisation in technology. Through continuously developing my skills, I am preparing myself for the future in my career field and making a difference as a member of my generation.”
The College of Cape Town is very proud of Glendon’s achievements, and firmly believe that he will be an inspirational ambassador not only for South Africa and the College of Cape Town, but for young artisans across the country.
Mr Pat Lawrence, Academic Manager for Building & Civil and Mechanical Engineering at College of Cape Town, shared some wisdom and motivation with Glendon. “We are incredibly proud of Glendon’s achievement, and we are proud as a College that we have contributed to his success and his future career dreams through the continued efforts of our staff. Glendon is a Springbok for skills in South Africa. All the time, effort and sacrifice still to come in preparation for the international event is sure to stand him in good stead not only in Brazil, but for all his endeavours in building his future.”
We wish Glendon all the very best for WorldSkills São Paulo, and encourage him to “Be a MacGyver” that inspires and applies his artisanal skills to create a better future for all whose lives he touches.