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From Cutting Hair to Plumbing Houses


After hairdressing for 10 years, working in hospitality and working on a prawn troller in the middle of the ocean for three months, Traci Harris was up for a new challenge. She decided to enrol in the Certificate III in Plumbing at Box Hill Institute and recently won the Apprentice of the Year Award for 2019.

“I wanted a new challenge. I tried plumbing, electrical, building and plastering and I loved how diverse plumbing was,” she said. “I always hoped that my colourful work history would pay off and it really has. It’s an amazing feeling that my hard work is being recognised.”

Traci certainly has worked hard. Last year she won the inaugural Susan Fenton Inspirational Scholarship for $2,000. The scholarship is named after a former Box Hill Institute staff and board member. It is awarded to a female student enrolled in a traditional trade apprenticeship or a Building Studies course who can inspire and encourage other females to pursue a career in this sector.  

On announcing the scholarship recipient, Box Hill Institute’s board chairperson, Jack Diamond said, “She stood out as an exceptional student, and her excellent attitude and enthusiasm for her studies, for her career as a plumber, and for life in general, are admirable.  

“Traci decided that plumbing would be a trade that she would like to take up and she clearly loves it. She is a fine example of a female excelling in a non-traditional trade for women,” he said. 

Coming from such a diverse work background, Traci could hardly cut a straight piece of PVC pipe let alone hold a drill when she started plumbing but thanks to her hard work and determination, and support from her teachers and peers, she continues to conquer.

“I am very lucky with the class I’m in. From my teacher to the guys. They are very welcoming, helpful and always want to see you succeed,” she said.

This is Traci’s second time at Box Hill Institute. The first time was for her hairdressing qualification. She said, “The facilities and resources have expanded a great deal.” 

Five years ago, if anyone had told Traci that she would become a qualified plumber, she wouldn’t have believed it. It is a testament to her determination and she advises others that if they want something to go for it, have faith and take a chance on themselves. She said, “Work hard and stick at it. Just like life, you will have good days and bad days.”