5 April 2024

Plumber wins memorial scholarship named in honour of mentor, TAFE's Craig Walker

| Albert McKnight
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Digger cowie

Narooma’s Digger Cowie is the first recipient of the Craig Walker Memorial Scholarship. Photo: TAFE.

A Narooma plumber is “honoured” to be the first person awarded a scholarship named after a long-time TAFE NSW teacher, who sadly died last year.

Digger Cowie, a 21-year-old TAFE NSW plumbing student, has been awarded the inaugural Craig Walker Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship is named in honour of Mr Walker, who died in 2023. He was a TAFE NSW plumbing teacher for more than 25 years, teaching students between the Illawarra and Far South Coast.

In fact, one of his students was Mr Cowie.

“I got along really well with him, he was a pretty big mentor for me,” he said.

“He pushed me to do better. He was real honest, pretty much black and white, and he said it as it was.”

When asked what Mr Walker had taught him, Mr Cowie replied, “Pretty much everything.”

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A TAFE NSW spokesperson said the scholarship was an embodiment of Mr Walker’s values, of being able to have a laugh, have a go at anything, as well as knuckle down when required.

TAFE NSW head teacher Terry Tompkin said it was a respectful way to keep the memory of a colleague and friend alive while continuing his passion for helping others learn the skills of the trade.

“We will award this scholarship each year to a student who is consistently having a fair go, is always fair dinkum, and who also knows when to get stuck in when there is work that needs to be done,” he said.

The annual scholarship provides the winner with $2500 toward their plumbing career.

“It’s something I was working towards and it’s good to get a bit of recognition of that,” Mr Cowie said.

“The scholarship money will come in handy. I plan to buy a laptop to help when I’m working on the more remote, rural sites; it will make my studies a little easier too.”

TAFE says that nationally there is strong demand for people with plumbing qualifications and the construction industry will need an extra 8000 plumbers in the five years from 2021 to 2026.

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“I’m a qualified plumber and decided to complete my Certificate IV in Plumbing and Service to gain my licence in the hope of going into business,” Mr Cowie said.

He works in his father’s business, Tilba Plumbing, which he enjoys as he and his father are “pretty much best mates”.

“It’s a good opportunity and it’s a good ticket to have,” he said of why he got into plumbing.

“It’s something I can always fall back on later in life if needs be.

“There’s a huge demand for trades at the moment – there’s always going to be work.”

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