Dave was just like any other student coming out of high school, looking to do something interesting and enjoyable with his life. A family friend offered him a labouring job that could potentially lead into a plumbing apprenticeship.
“I worked hard to impress my workmates and superiors, and luckily managed to work myself into an apprenticeship. I haven’t looked back since!” he says.
“I’ve been introduced to all three areas around plumbing so far – plumbing, gas fitting and drainage. At this point I’ve enjoyed all of them, and they all have their positives and negatives but I see myself being more inclined to focus on plumbing and gas fitting in the future.”
Dave is looking at completing his apprenticeship at the end of his fourth year, focusing on plumbing and gas fitting. A plumbing apprenticeship focusing on one subject takes three years to complete, whereas all three takes five years. Plumbing focuses on all of the pipework in and around water and waste. This usually revolves around fitting pipes to sites/households, fitting taps and sorting out leaks and the like.
Drainage is more of an outside task focusing on bigger and main pipes, which is “great if you are an outdoors person, but there can be a lot of standing around waiting for diggers to dig up the area needed”.
Gas fitting involves creating, fixing and maintaining gas systems. “It’s a little bit more dangerous – with plumbing if you stuff-up you get wet, whereas with gas fitting a stuff-up might have you a little more worse off.”
Dave says plumbing is a very rewarding job. At the moment he’s working on state-owned housing, and says it’s an awesome feeling to help the tenants with their leaks and sewage problems so that they can have a better standard of living.
“The thing I love the most about the job is the satisfaction of finding out the problem and overcoming it. Plumbing requires a lot of planning, thinking and most of all common sense. It’s a pretty big workload, and so when you solve a problem it makes it feel that much more satisfying.”
Plumbing isn’t for everyone. “If you’re looking to do plumbing, don’t dive in half-heartedly,”he says. “It’s a job you must be willing to work hard at or you will not succeed.”
Dave singles out a few traits that would serve you well in the job. “You’ve definitely got to be a hard worker – that’s just with any trade in general. Being patient is also key to succeeding as a plumber; sometimes you’ve just got to step back and analyse the situation and then using a bit of common sense is really important for learning things in new situations.
“But if you don’t like working around faeces, shower hair, crawling under houses and getting your hands dirty, this might not be the career path for you.”
To become a plumber, you first have to complete an apprenticeship. These are sometimes hard to come by because of the demand in the industry but by taking a pre-trade in plumbing at a polytechnic you’ll have a much better chance of being accepted by a plumbing company.
Along with hoping to finish his apprenticeship within the next four years, Dave has big plans on the horizon. “I plan on linking up with a few of my mates who are also electricians and plumbers in training to launch a plumbing, gas fitting, draining and electrical company in the near future when we have all become qualified.”
If this doesn’t work out, Dave has a plan B, to become a certified plumber, which requires an extra two years of experience. “This is basically a step up from a qualified plumber and they’re the ones who sign off on all the work that gets done. Essentially if you’re certified you will never be out of work because there’s always going to be something that needs to be signed off on, which is where I would then come in.”
Dave recommends plumbing as a rewarding profession in all senses of the word, for school leavers who are looking to get out of their comfort zone and are willing to put in the hard yards.
“To do plumbing, you really have to want to do it. It’s a great job for problem-solvers and hands-on people. Enjoy your work and there’ll be nothing stopping you from completing your apprenticeship and becoming a fully fledged, well-paid plumber.”