From apprentices to masters of a plumbing business

From teenagers learning a trade to master plumbers and later national franchise owners, James Riddle and Joe Papiccio are a testament to the possibilities that can come from completing an apprenticeship. 

Co-founders of Perth-headquartered Plumbing Bros., the skilled duo has forged an award-winning business that comprises almost 100 personnel Australia wide, and a spin-off company, Electrical Bros. 

Having both worked in the industry for many years after completing plumbing apprenticeships as teenagers, and wanting to create something great, Riddle and Papiccio founded Plumbing Bros. from James’ home in February 2017. 

By May 2017 they had hired their first full-time fourth-year apprentice and two years later Plumbing Bros. Franchising was founded. 

Now the company includes eight franchisees in WA, Queensland, NSW and Victoria, with Electrical Bros. founded in July 2021. 

“Apprentices have been a crucial part of our business from the beginning,” says Riddle. 

“We pride ourselves on our Plumbing Bros. pathways program in which has helped us oversee several apprentices complete their time with us and evolve into qualified plumbers.” 

As of November 2021, the company has nine active apprentices in Perth alone, and they have successfully completed two apprentices — all of which have been placed with the help of Apprenticeship Support Australia WA. 

Plumbing Bros. pathway program 

Under the pathway program, there is a clear instructional roadmap that provides for: 

  • Apprentices to become plumbers; 
  • Plumbers to become master plumbers; and 
  • Master plumbers to become franchise partners. 

“This program not only motivates team members by creating a clear pathway to success, it also assists us to retain good people in the business who we have invested time and money into for training and development,” the Plumbing Bros. website reads. 

Riddle says apprentices offer the company’s qualified tradespeople integral support whilst also learning their craft at the same time. 

“Due to the recent skilled trade shortage in Australia, we have now invested in training apprentices for the future more than ever before,” he says. 

“We hope this will not only pay dividends as a business strategy, but also allow us to oversee the personal growth of many individuals and have a positive impact on their career choice.” 

What’s clear is the impact their choices have had on the success of the business. 

Award-winning business strategy 

In only four years Plumbing Bros. has collected the Stirling Business of the year and Rising Stars Business Award, Business News ‘40Under40’ Award, New National PBHQ and Small Business Champion Award. 

Associate Director, Industry Skills, Lena Constantine says Plumbing Bros. is a good news business story that shows with ambition and passion “you can achieve anything and that an apprenticeship can change your world”. 

“ASA is proud to be helping businesses like Plumbing Bros., which have made apprenticeships central to growing their operations.” 

Constantine says Plumbing Bros. has been one of many businesses to take up the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) wage subsidy, which provided a 50 per cent rebate on the wage of new apprentices and trainees signed up before March 31, 2022. 

Find out about the BAC incentive here, or contact ASA for more details about how you can include apprentices or trainees into your business, on 1300 363 831 or [email protected].

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