Plumbers work on sanitation, heating, hot and cold water systems, and the sheet lead weathering required for the inside and outside of buildings. Plumbers use a variety of skills, tools and materials, and the work plumbers carry out includes fitting pipework to baths, toilets, sinks, central heating boilers, water pumps, etc. They carry out emergency repair work, and can also make fit flashings or roof weatherings. They work both inside and outside, often in cramped and uncomfortable positions.
Plumbers can specialise in particular areas of plumbing work and need a great deal of technical knowledge and expertise. Plumbes should have practical skills and good hand skills, be able to follow technical drawings, building plans, and other instructions, be fit and strong enough to carry tools and materials and be interested in maths, engineering and science subjects.
They work for plumbing or mechanical engineering services contractors, building contractors, public sector bodies, or specialist contractors in the marine, chemical and gas industries. Of the 20,000 plumbers and plumbing businesses in the UK, around 80 per cent are sole traders.
How to become a Plumber
Most start as apprentices straight from school or college and train on the job over a period of up to four years.
There are plenty of opportunities for progression for in the industry. Once qualified, plumbers may decide to further their qualifications to NVQ/SVQ Level 4, or even degree level. They can work towards technician or supervisory level jobs, or specialise in a specific area of work such as heating, ventilation, refrigeration or air conditioning. Self-employed plumbers may run their own specialist firms.
Their services can be required at any time, so plumbers can expect to work more than 37.5 hours per week.
Salaries range from around £7,000 a year (for first-year apprentices) to over £22,000 for experienced plumbers.