Maria Contreras Huerta wins Plumbing World national scholarship for apprentices

Maria Contreras Huerta took top honors at a national competition.
Photo: Delivered

A woman who has proven herself in a male-dominated profession wants to own a business to give others a chance.

Maria Contreras Huerta just won the national Plumbing World Scholarship for Apprentices.

The 22-year-old couldn't speak English when she came to New Zealand from Chile 16 years ago.

At the age of 14, she realized her dream of becoming a plumber.

A gateway program at school introduced her to the profession and from day one she knew it was what she wanted to do.

When a plumber came to her home to repair a hot water cylinder, she took her chance and texted Dave Strong, general manager of Morrinsville Plumbing and Gas Services. She showed up in her school uniform and armed with her resume.

“I’m someone who wants to get things done and doesn’t want to wait long.”

She never doubted that the job was right for her.

“I love it so much because I do something new every day. One day I could be building a hot water cylinder in someone's house and the next day I could be making some stainless steel pipes or drainage rods on a commercial site. “It's pretty cool.”

She also enjoyed it when customers were satisfied with her work.

She told Checkpoint that she was proud of her win because she had worked hard and put in a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” since starting her training.

Her dream was to own her own business with the goal of helping people who were struggling or had no one to support them.

“Those people who don’t have people supporting them and saying, ‘Hey, you can do this, you’ve got this’ – I want to be that person.”

She would also be interested in hiring people with disabilities, who are often rejected without a chance to prove themselves, she said.

Huerta had seen greater interest among women wanting to become plumbers.

However, when she arrived on site, she had received a few “looks” or questions from customers or other employees.

“Usually everyone is pretty good, but there are people who ask, 'What is she doing here?' …I'm basically there to work, so I just do my job.”

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