Though not very many people think of plumbing as a career path to take, it remains one of the most well-paying jobs. With the help of project management tools, almost all of today’s buildings need running water and a working flushing toilet. These modern-day necessities account for the increasing demand for plumbers. On average, a plumber in the US can make around $25 to $26 an hour, or $54,000 annually.
With that, more and more people seek a career in plumbing to make a decent amount of money without a college degree. But while construction jobs require little to no formal education, an apprenticeship program is a vital part of the plumbing journey to learn all aspiring plumbers. In an industry like construction, hands-on experience is key in entering that world.
What is a plumbing apprenticeship?
Essentially, apprenticeships are similar to internships in which they are programs that allow those with no training to gain knowledge and shape some specialized skills of trade through experience in the field. The difference between an intern and an apprentice is that the latter gets paid for their work. Commonly, apprentices earn more money, the more skills they master, ultimately completing the program making a skilled professional’s full wage upon licensure. On some occasions, there may be classroom settings where they have structured courses or a formal curriculum on top of training on-the-job.
As for plumbing apprentices, they typically learn hands-on how to do most of the typical plumbing jobs and some technical instruction at job sites. Moreover, they are usually trained under a local plumbers union or school or are managed by a private company. While training on the job, these apprentices will learn the essential tools of the trade, the marketing and business aspects of the field, and fundamental topics like state codes, OSHA safety, drafting, math, and blueprint reading.
Duties & Responsibilities of an Apprentice Plumber
In most construction sites, subcontractors such as plumbers are managed through subcontractor scheduling software. Consequently, these professionals have their apprentices around to assist them and teach and train them. However, apprenticeships are not about shadowing a professional and taking notes about the jobs. As a plumbing apprentice who gets paid, they should do some basics jobs and help their mentor out.
Identify the location of leaks and other issues
Apprentice plumbers must be able to locate leaks so that they can repair it. Aside from merely spotting an issue, this task heavily involves blueprint reading and understanding building codes to identify how it must be solved. This is particularly important for larger buildings with a bigger and more complex plumbing system.
1.Repair/replace parts and perform cleaning services
After diagnosing the problem, the next thing an apprentice plumber should do is assist in making the necessary repairs, which includes replacing parts. Depending on the situation, they may have to tear up concrete or cut into walls to access the pipes, replace or pipe sections to stop leaks, or repair dripping fixtures. But there may be times when a drain is clogged and the apprentice has the task of cleaning and unclogging it.
2. Determine the needed equipment
Apprentice plumbers must be familiar with the different materials, equipment, and tools in plumbing. This is because they must identify what device a specific job needs, whether it’s as minor as fixing leaks or as significant as repairing malfunctioning systems.
3. Help in preparing cost estimates
If apprentice plumbers want to be successful professionals, they should know that the job is more than fieldwork and learn how to handle cost estimates. Even though this task can be done with a project management software, part of an apprentice’s job is to help in preparing the client’s cost estimates, and by observing on the job, apprentice plumbers will figure out how much jobs are worth and what materials, labor, and equipment total. In the future, they can write these on their own.
Gear & Equipment
Construction sites usually have a builder schedule prepared to determine what time and day-specific workers should work. For apprentices, this means that they work when their mentor is called on-site. But even though the professional has a complete set of tools and the site has their own, an apprentice must have tools of their own.
As a person learning on the job, you’ll need your own set of gear and equipment. You won’t need the specialized tools just yet, but it’s essential to have the basics with you. To get a specific list of what to have, apprentices can ask your mentor or program, but generally, these are what you’ll need:
● Adjustable wrench;
● Multi-bit screwdriver;
● Permanent markers;
● Personal protection equipment (PPE)
● Pipe cutters;
● Pipe wrenches;
● Tape measure;
● Torpedo level; and
● Utility knife
From there, you can gradually start building your tool kit, so it is not to heavy on finances.
How do you become a plumbing apprentice?
Step 1: Program identification
There are many plumber apprenticeship programs to choose from. One option is to look for programs through professional associations or trade unions that offer training under a union contract. Here, apprentices receive fair wages and insurance, among other benefits. An apprenticeship in the United Association (UA) lasts to five years and has up to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 246 hours of courses in a classroom setting.
Alternatively, community or vocational colleges’ plumber apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by an apprenticeship organization or a local union. In many of these programs, students can earn credits that can later be used for an associate’s degree in construction.
Lastly, soldiers in the military are offered the chance to work as plumbers through military training programs. For instance, the Army has a program similar to traditional apprenticeship programs with hands-on and classroom training. This 9-week basic training program is available to soldiers who want to become plumbers.
Step 2: Program evaluation
The next step is to determine which program to apply to. This phase includes looking at which one has the best benefits and payoff in training, education, and money. Moreover, it is essential to note that most US employers prefer plumbers who were enrolled in a registered program with the US Department of Labor. This is because the registered ones are certain to have met particular requirements and a substantial coursework and training level.
Step 3: Program application
To qualify for a plumbing apprenticeship program, one must have a high school diploma or a GED. Once they have determined which program they want to apply to, aspiring plumbing apprentices must go through many application steps.
- First, applicants need to fill out an application form, take entrance tests, and go through an interview.
- If they have passed that initial phase, accepted applicants will be sorted into programs based on:
● The information gathered from the form, tests, and interview;
● Their qualifications; and
● The specific requirements of the different organizations.
Step 4: Program completion
Once an applicant has been accepted and is now a plumbing apprentice, they sign an agreement that details the program and its requirements. Then, they must now complete the program that includes formal classroom training and paid work from on-the-job-training with a professional plumber. Most programs have a span of two to six years or 2,000 hours.
What are the qualities that make a good plumber?
Plumbing apprentices are essentially plumbers already. Because they go to work to train and get paid, they should have the same necessary qualities a professional has. Going through an apprentice program is one thing, but it takes more for aspiring plumbers to make it in the industry.
1. Mechanically inclined
To troubleshoot system issues, plumbers need to have an analytical mind and a working understanding of the system. To do their jobs right, plumbers need to have at least a basic knowledge of the technical concepts and mechanics of some aspects of a plumbing system, such as how water valves work, the best type of tubing for particular applications.
2. Prioritize safety.
A lot can go wrong at a plumbing job. That’s why plumbers should always put safety first. When handling issues, good plumbers will be strategic in solving them and practice safety measures and procedures faithfully.
3. Is in good physical shape
Aside from a healthy and sharp mind, plumbers must also have a healthy and fit body. In plumbing, there will often be times when the job requires intense physical effort. Plumbers might find themselves crouching under a sink or standing for a long time fixing pipes in the ceiling.
Whether it’s a big gig made with a construction schedule software or residential appointment, good plumbers are always on time for a job. Besides getting more work done, being punctual is a sign of a good work ethic and impacts customer service quality.
5. Excellent coordination skills
Plumbers often work in tight spaces and use several pieces of tools and equipment. Having excellent coordination skills will help them navigate their way around cramped and unfamiliar places.
6. Sharp problem-solving skills
A significant bulk of a plumber’s job involves solving problems and fixing issues. Their analytical mind must process information quickly and clearly to assess the situation, weigh the options, and choose the best course of action.
7. Good communication skills
Communication is a two-way street. Plumbers should have sharp listening skills to understand a client’s concern clearly and will be able to convey the situation through a professional’s perspective properly.