Plumbing has always been a multi-skilled profession, and mastering its expanding range of systems, skills and topics means that new entrants face a bewildering induction to the craft. Most plumbers have to be well-versed in a range of boiler makes and models, from the very recent to the antique. On top of that, they need to use advanced welding techniques and have an understanding of simple computer systems. It can be difficult, but the rewards are great – you will earn a good salary with your plumbing skills. If you choose this career, you will end up possessing a wide skill set that will open up your job prospects.
Taking up a plumbing apprenticeship is a great first step into the industry: it’s a popular career route and so many people apply when an opportunity comes up. 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 an easy option. 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 good GCSEs (6-9), including Maths and English. If you didn’t quite reach this level but have a natural aptitude, you’ll find employers are still willing to invest in your training and development. 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’ll need a strong desire to learn and a good deal of enthusiasm 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 the necessary qualifications and aptitude, but without a placement, you’ll be unable to get trained. 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 looking. Once you’re registered you can start the process in earnest.
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.
The government funds apprenticeship training for 16-18 year olds, via your employer. The national minimum wage for apprentices is £3.70 per hour, but many employers offer competitive wages, with the average being £200+ 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 or 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 £31,700 a year, with some managing to exceed £50,000. Even a low-paid plumber can be expected to earn more than £25,000 a year; the same as a well-paid store manager or skilled office worker. There are many opportunities for progression in the trade, and even self-employed plumbers can be sure the work will never dry up.
As 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 move in to higher education if you decide to pursue another career. All it requires is hard work, tenacity and real enthusiasm.
Think about your plumbing course today.