Careers in the plumbing industry
Danny Davis, Operations Manager for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) says there’s lots of opportunities to progress in the industry. A career in plumbing and heating can take you down many routes, it doesn’t stop at being a plumber or heating installer. Here are some of the career paths you can take when you are qualified and experienced:
Manufacturers of plumbing or heating products employ technical representatives who assist designers and specifiers and visit sites to advise installers on the best way to tackle the installation of their products.
Alternatively, you may have the opportunity to work on a technical helpline where you would advise specifiers, installers and members of the public on manufacturers’ products and answer queries about installation and suitability of products for particular applications.
Assuming you have gained NVQ/Diploma level 3 in plumbing and ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) if you are carrying out gas work, you could consider becoming a plumbing lecturer in a training centre or college. To do this you would have to gain a teaching qualification, and it may be possible for you to work towards this qualification whilst you are teaching.
Manufacturers need trainers to teach installers how to use their products, so this is another possibility if you feel you would like to pass on your skills and knowledge to others but don’t necessarily want to work in a classroom.
You might have the opportunity to become a Water Regulations Inspector. Water companies have to ensure that plumbing installations do not contaminate or disrupt the water supply in their area. Inspections are carried out on domestic or non-domestic premises for compliance with the Water Regulations.
Some plumbers can supplement their income by acting as expert witnesses. They usually go to court and give evidence in disputes concerning poor plumbing installations. Wide experience in the industry is essential and you would need to keep up-to-date with all the latest Water and Building Regulations.
Although most people dream of running their own business, it’s certainly not an easy option. Get as much help and advice as you can from recognised agencies such as the Inland Revenue (www.hmrc.gov.uk) and Business Link (www.businesslink.gov.uk).
If you have already decided to become an industrial/commercial plumber or heating installer, you will find further career options open to you when you have gained enough experience on the tools.
A buyer may help to select the best product for the job being undertaken and will negotiate with manufacturers to get the best price. This person is often responsible for maintaining a budget for materials and will be responsible for communicating with vendors concerning defective products, delivery methods, and payment.
Estimators need to accurately calculate the amount of materials that will be needed, how many people will need to be involved and how much time it will take to complete the job. You’ll need a good knowledge of materials and specialist machinery.
Chargehands supervise the plumbers working on the job and deal with any problems that arise.
Project engineers have overall responsibility for a number of projects running at any one time and have to make sure costs don’t escalate and that everything is running smoothly.
You could consider specialising in a certain area, such as designing and installing vacuum drainage systems (systems not restricted by the use of gravity fed plumbing) and syphonic rainwater systems (this is when water is syphoned from the roof down into the drain at high velocity).
H&V engineers install and commission complex heating and ventilating systems in large buildings. If you went on to get a degree you could become a ventilating design engineer.
Public Health Engineer
If you undertook a degree course you could progress further and could become a public health engineer (a designer of water supply and drainage systems).
If you are attracted to work involving the installation of weather systems (usually in copper, zinc or lead) to protect buildings from rainwater, your ultimate goal could be to become a restoration specialist. This means you could work on historical buildings, such as castles, churches and places like the Tower of London.
You are at the start of your career. With hard work and determination you could be going places! Visit the CIPHE website for more information on a career in plumbing & heating – www.ciphe.org.uk/Professional/Careers/