Plumbing apprenticeships FAQ

apprenticeship competition

In Apprenticeships, Education, Training

For school leavers across the land, GCSE results day will be hitting on 12 August this year – a little earlier than usual. Something that won’t change will be the nerves experienced by those waiting to see what their grades hold. Once you know your results, there are lots of decisions to be made about your future career. If you are considering moving on to a plumbing apprenticeship here’s what you need to know…

Who can apply for an apprenticeship?

Anyone can apply for an apprenticeship as long as they are over the age of 16.

What entry qualifications do I need?

As a general rule, applicants should aim to hold both English and Maths qualifications at Level 2. This equates to GCSE grade C - A (pre-2017 GCSE qualifications) or grade 4 - 9 (new GCSE qualifications). A good science grade would also help.

When it comes to the Trailblazer Apprenticeships in England, employers set the entrance criteriaSo, someone who can prove they have the right attitude and aptitude for the role may gain it without hitting Level 2 for English and Maths.

However, it will be expected that apprentices hold a GCSE in both English and Maths at grade 4-9 on completion of the apprenticeship. So, if you have not achieved that prior to starting your apprenticeship you will need to study for your Maths and English GCSEs alongside study for the apprenticeship.

When to apply?

There are no set rules around apprenticeship start dates – it depends on the employer and when they need to recruit to fit their business needs. However, you may find that some larger employers will be recruiting far in advance of when the apprenticeship actually starts.

Every apprenticeship vacancy will include a start date and a closing date, so be sure to check both.

What are the training costs?

In England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland those aged between 16 and 24 won’t usually have to fund their tuition - the employer and the government cover the fees.

Over 25s may be asked to contribute towards the cost of training, however some (but not all) employers cover the full cost. There is help available for the over 25’s in forms of loans, grants and bursaries.  

How long does an apprenticeship take?

This varies depending by what home nation you are studying in.

In England, the Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician apprenticeship normally takes up to four years to achieve. However, there is flexibility to allow either those with pre-existing experience and qualifications, or particularly gifted students to finish earlier.

In Scotland, the Domestic Plumbing and Heating modern apprenticeship usually takes three years to complete.

In Wales, apprenticeships are split into NVQ Levels:

  • NVQ Level 2 (the entry level qualification) usually lasts two years full time.
  • NVQ Level 3 is the industry recommended qualification and takes an additional year full time, taking the total apprenticeship to three years.

In Northern Ireland, apprenticeships are also split into two levels:

  • A Level 2 qualification would normally last two years full time.
  • A level 3 qualification would normally take a further two years.

However, there is some flexibility as the apprenticeship duration can vary and can be agreed between the apprentice, training contractor and employer.

How much does an apprentice earn?

All apprentices must receive the appropriate national minimum wage for their age. This may not sound a lot, but when you consider that a university course could cost around £9,000 per year, earning whilst learning really does stand up to comparison.

Find out more on the minimum wage here:

How many hours do apprentices work?

Approximately 30 hours per week, plus a day at college. The working day may start at 8am and end around 4pm.

Are apprentices allowed paid holidays?

Apprentices are entitled to 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

How do I apply for an apprenticeship?

To get an apprenticeship, you need an employer. There are a number of ways to find one and where you start to look will depend on where you live.

For apprenticeship vacancies in England, visit:

For apprenticeship vacancies in Scotland, visit:

For apprenticeship vacancies in Wales, visit:

For apprenticeship vacancies in Northern Ireland, visit:

You can also:

  • Check out the recruitment section of local newspapers to see if any companies are advertising apprenticeship vacancies.
  • Search the internet for companies to see if they are advertising apprenticeship opportunities.
  • Get in touch directly with local companies and give them a copy of your CV. Ask them to keep it on file in case a vacancy arises.
  • Ask family and friends if they know of anyone who is looking for an apprentice.

Further apprenticeship advice

National Apprenticeship Service

Apprenticeships Scotland

Welsh Government

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Government

Once you find an apprenticeship, you can get your career off on the right foot by becoming a Trainee Member of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering. And, if your college is one of the CIPHE’s Approved Training Centre’s you may be able to join for free! Find out more by emailing or phoning 01708 463116. You can also take a look at the Join us section.