Ryan finds his place working with water

Infographic with text that says Career Paths: Water treatment operator

Ryan Young started out as a builder but ended up in a different type of hands-on job with the water industry.

Switching from building to water

Ryan got his first experience in the water industry about eight years ago. He had been doing a building apprenticeship but wasn't enjoying himself.

"It was at a pretty rough time in the building industry. A lot of people weren't taking on apprentices. I didn't see a future for myself doing that kind of work."

Ryan switched to a job with a company that installed water systems in houses and irrigation systems on small farms. As he learned more, he became fascinated by the science of moving water through pipes and was keen to someday work at a large-scale water plant.

"I quickly developed a passion for the water industry from that. It was basically something where I could use my hands. I've always been a bit of a handyman and I still got to work outside."

A jump from lifeguard into another water role

When the water systems company moved to Christchurch, Ryan stayed behind as he was unwilling to move his family. Instead he ran his own small company and did some bartending work – all the while searching for another water industry job. 

"I kept my eye on all the jobs that were going with my local council. An opportunity popped up at the swimming pool – at the beach. I thought, 'I could do that'," Ryan says.

"I thought I could lifeguard for a while and try to make my way up through the ranks. You're working around water so it was a really good way to gain transferable skills."

Getting a job as a council lifeguard gave Ryan a way to jump into his ideal water industry job. Two and a half years later, he was offered the role of trainee water treatment operator with the same council on the Kāpiti Coast. 

Getting qualified to monitor a water treatment plant

Now the council is supporting Ryan to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Water Treatment (Level 4) while he works as a trainee water treatment operator.

"I'm going through all the relevant training. It should take 18 months to do the qualifications."

Water treatment operators are responsible for making sure water is fit to drink and treatment plants are running properly.

"It's a job for people who enjoy working hard and knowing they're working towards something. Water is such a basic necessity. Everyone has their own opinions about it, but making sure that water comes out of people's taps is rewarding."

A hands-on job

Ryan says the job of water treatment operator suits people who have a good base level of fitness and want to work with their hands.

"Generally you need to be physically fit because you need to be able to move around your site. You need to be good with your hands because you have to pull apart pumps and there’s lots of cleaning. And there's a bit of maths and science involved."

When Ryan left school he had no idea the job existed. "I wish I'd found out about it sooner. Now I'm quite passionate about my job. I really enjoy working in the water industry."

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Updated 4 Oct 2019