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It’s never too late to start an apprenticeship

31 January 2024

New Citycare Water drainlaying apprentices Graeme Cleave and Shelley McBratney have a lot in common. They are not only a couple, but their two sons also work with them in our Dunedin drainage team, and they’ve jointly decided to study and take on their apprenticeships later in life.

Graeme joined Citycare Water in February 2021 and has been a hydro jetting operator. Shelley has been doing drainage connections for the last two years.

They asked for more training and in June they started apprenticeships, studying to become registered drainlayers. Over two years, the couple will complete four block courses and then use that knowledge every day on the job. They do planned, reactive and on-call drainage work, which they like due to the huge variety.

“In life, I see one thing leads to another, and I was quite enjoying doing the drainage connections,” 48-year-old Shelley says. “I enjoy a challenge, and I like fixing things. I get completely muddy and don’t have to worry about what I wear to work.”

For Graeme, 51, getting back into the classroom is a challenge he is relishing. And they help each other to get through the bookwork. They even go out on jobs together when one or other of them is on call, and there’s always something new to learn.

“I enjoy the work and find it interesting, and it is good to learn more and more about the industry. Every job has its own challenge,” he says.

Their sons work with them at Citycare Water, Isaac McBratney in hydro excavation, and Liam Cleave is a CCTV operator.

At home on their lifestyle property on the Taieri Plains, Shelley says there’s a lot of laughter about their workdays, and it’s good to talk about the jobs and learn as they go.

Shelley and Graeme are encouraged by their Drainage Foreman, Ian Daniels (Certifying Drainlayer), and Drainage Serviceperson Mick Jenkins (Certifying Drainlayer). The team support and the ongoing training are all part of building the capability in the team for the work they do for Dunedin City Councill.