Plumbing has always been a multi-skilled profession, and over time it has begun to get harder. Most plumbers have to be versed not only in various boiler makes, from the very recent to the antique; but also need to have knowledge in advanced welding techniques and even modern computer systems. It can be a difficult job, but the rewards are great and you will certainly earn a good salary with your plumbing skills. If you proceed with wanting to be a plumber in the future you will be in possession of an important skill that will set up plenty of job prospects.
Taking up a plumbing apprenticeship is a great first step into the industry: it’s a popular career route and so places are sparse on these schemes. Here we give you some practical advice on how to go about getting a plumbing apprenticeship:
Skills & Qualifications
The first thing to bear in mind is that apprenticeships aren’t a cop-out route. You don’t have to be academic, but you do have to be intelligent, switched on and eager to learn. Because of its highly-complex nature, plumbing requires more qualifications than many other apprenticeships; typically 5 GCSEs (A*-C), including Maths and English. If you didn’t quite scrape the grades but have a natural aptitude, you’ll find most employers are still willing to take you on and invest in your training development as you progress forward. Be sure it’s what you want to do and that you’re capable of doing it before you apply though; in such a competitive field, a slack attitude simply won’t cut it, you must a drive to want to learn and be enthusiastic about your future job.
Finding a Placement
Before you can become an apprentice you need an employer. It sounds obvious, but this is the biggest hurdle you’ll face. You may have all qualifications and aptitude necessary, but without securing that placement, you’ll be unable to access training. First you’ll need to identify your local Training Provider (or Providers): the UK’s dedicated apprenticeship website keeps a continually-updated list, so keep updated. Once you’re registered you can begin looking for placements.
An alternative route is to use your local Connexions office. Aside from listing placements, they may be able to help you with applications or offer practical advice on approaching potential employers. If you continually draw a blank, or live in an area with few opportunities, you can always try writing to local employers. Such an approach is hard work and can be dispiriting when you don’t hear back, but put some care into your letter, highlight your strengths and – most importantly – keep trying. As with everything, you can get advice at Connexions if you’re struggling.
The government funds apprenticeship training for 16-18 year olds, via your employer. The national minimum wage for apprentices is £2.65 per hour, but many employers offer competitive wages, with the average being £170 per week (so significantly more than the current minimum wage for under-18s). It can be hard getting by on lower-end apprentice wages, but you may be entitled to Income support of Housing benefit (if you no longer live at home). Check with your local CAB if money is an issue. Remember your low wage is only temporary; most apprentices go on to make far more than those who went straight into unskilled work.
Why Do an Apprenticeship?
Put simply, it can change your life. Plumbers make an average of £31,000 a year, with some managing to hit the £50,000 range. Even a low-paid plumber can be expected to earn over £22,000 a year; the same as a well-paid store manager or skilled office worker. There are many opportunities for progression and even self-employed plumbers can be sure the work will never dry up. Within the framework of an apprenticeship, you’ll learn the necessary skills under the supervision of an expert; but will also be given enough room to find your own way and become independent. You can even use your apprenticeship qualification to advance to higher education if you ever decide to pursue another career. All it requires is hard work, tenacity and real enthusiasm.
Think about your plumbing course today.