Three insiders explain why a career in plumbing could be more than a pipe dream…
YOUR ROUTE IN Rose*, 25, is from Stratford-Upon-Avon
‘I decided to become a plumber four years ago. My boyfriend at the time was a plasterer and I’d been on a few jobs with him and found the plumbing side interesting. The usual route in is when you’re 16, you get a four-year apprenticeship and work towards your NVQ qualifications. I applied for a course as a mature student at Newcastle College. It’s pretty rare for girls to train and I was one of only three on my course. After a year we needed to find employment, which wasn’t easy as few firms were hiring. Luckily a company called HomeServe came to the college. I was put forward for their apprenticeship and got accepted. On my first day as an apprentice I realised how little I really knew – I’d passed all my exams and worked really hard during my time at college, but there’s nothing like learning on the job. The experience was great and not only did HomeServe pay for my training I also got my NVQ levels 2 and 3. But working for a huge company wasn’t for me, so I handed in my notice and moved back south. I’m now self employed and trading under Stopcocks – a community of women plumbers who help you find work and offer support. It’s recently launched the first ever women – only plumbing training course, where women can get on – the – job experience to gain their NVQs.’
A DAY IN THE LIFE Veronica, 25, works in Wakefield
‘I get up at around 7:30am to be at my first job by 9am. I try to give three hours per job, so I fit in about three a day. I work on my own and have to manage my bookings. My phone goes off a lot during the day, so I’ve always got a notepad in my pocket to jot down customers’ details. I make a stop off at Screwfix for supplies everyday, and I also spend time ordering certain products by phone throughout the day to save me time and fuel. During busy periods, like Christmas, I’ll do small jobs in the day and bigger ones at night, so I can be working 16 hour days. As I’m my own boss, I have to sort out my invoices and admin in the evening.’
WHAT THE JOB DESCRIPTION WON’T TELL YOU Maria, 28, lives in Kent and has been a plumber for three years
‘The physical side of the job is harder than I expected. When you’re a size 6, 5ft 4in woman you just can’t haul massive metal hot water tanks filled with limescale down two flights of stairs. I’m the only girl at my company and I often have to phone the office and ask for one of the other guys to help me on a job. This doesn’t look good because it delays both their work and mine. Working in people’s homes can be disgusting too. Once I was called to a house with a broken toilet – there was shit everywhere. The smell was awful. People are way grosser than you could imagine and, as a plumber, you see things you wish you hadn’t – like kitchens piled high with mouldy dishes and mouse droppings in cupboards. I only retrained to be a plumber about five years ago, but I don’t think I’ll stay in the industry long-term. Mostly I work on central heating systems and they’re really complicated. You’ve got to know your flow pipes from your return pipes. Some people just “get it”, but I’m not one of them, which leaves me feeling stupid sometimes. I know other female plumbers who love their job, but my advice is to do plenty of work experience before you commit. I didn’t and I had no idea how hard it would be.
STARTING SALARY: £15,000 to £21,000
AVERAGE SALARY BY 30: £30,000
WHAT’S THE MOST I COULD EARN?: Up to £40,000 for experience plumbers. Self-employed plumbers can charge up to £90 an hour.
KEY QUALITIES: Being logical, accurate and methodical.
QUALIFICATIONS: Level 2/3 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating.
WHERE DO I FIND OUT MORE? Go to nationalcareerservice.direct.gov.uk and search for ‘Plumber’
(Please Note: The information is from the More Magazine article ‘So you want to be a Plumber’ in Issue 18th March 2013, I did not write this!)
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