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Choose life, choose a plumbing or heating apprenticeship

The summer holidays are here and starting college seems like a lifetime away, but for those who haven’t quite made their minds up yet, embarking on a career in the plumbing and heating industry could be the best life choice you make yet.

1) Do I have to apply for an apprenticeship?
Just like a job or an academic qualification, to gain an apprenticeship you need to apply, so get that CV ready and practice those key interview questions!

Apprenticeship vacancies appear throughout the year, though you will find that many coincide with the school year. UCAS states, ‘As a general rule, vacancies with larger firms start appearing from September, but most start to be advertised from January or February onwards. Smaller businesses might start recruiting a month or two before the job starts, so if you hope to start work in August or September, you might start looking from March/April onwards.’

Download ‘How to write a winning Apprenticeship application’ 

2) How do I find an apprenticeship
Unless you know of someone looking in the trade, the best way to find an apprenticeship is online.

For those living in England, you can use the Government’s online Find an Apprenticeship tool

For Scotland visit https://www.apprenticeships.scot/

For Wales visit Careers Wales 

And for Northern Ireland visit: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/apprenticeships 

3) How long will it take to qualify?
The system is changing with the introduction of the new Trailblazer Apprenticeships. It used to be a case that apprenticeships first covered the NVQ Level 2 Diploma (Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland) as an entry-level qualification. This took around two years. Apprentices then had the option to progress on to the Advanced Apprenticeship in order to gain the NVQ Level 3 Diploma, (the industry recommend level) at an additional year’s study.

The new Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician trailblazer apprenticeships aim to teach to Level 3 over a 48-month period. The Apprenticeship Standard states, ‘By the end of this apprenticeship the candidate will have satisfied the requirements for registration as EngTech by the Engineering Council through The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) and or The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

On completion of the health and safety assessment, as determined, by the assessment plan the candidate will have satisfied the requirements to obtain a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card through the Joint Industry Board for Plumbing and Mechanical Engineering Services (JIB-PMES) at the appropriate grade.’

Find out more about the Apprenticeship Standard for Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician 

However, don’t think that your education will end when qualified! A career in plumbing and heating calls for a dedication to lifelong learning, as the rate of technological advancement is rapid. If you don’t keep up your professional development, you will get left behind.

4) What is the industry like?
The plumbing industry holds diverse career paths, good wages and the opportunity for individuals to run their own business. Many plumbers progress to design, consultancy, teaching and management, making the plumbing and heating industry a career with many opportunities.

5) How much does an apprentice earn?
All apprentices must receive the appropriate national minimum wage. At present the rate is £3.50 per hour (under 19 yrs). This may not sound a lot, but when you consider that the course has been paid for and you are gaining valuable skills and experience, it’s not a bad deal, especially when a university course could cost around £9,000 per year! As a minimum, apprentices can expect to earn around £90 per week, but some companies may be more generous.

6) How many hours will I work?
Approximately 30 hours per week, plus a day at college. The working day may start at 8am and end around 4pm.

7) Will I get holidays?
Apprentices are entitled to 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

Want to find out more about a career in the plumbing and heating industry? Check out the CIPHE’s careers webpages.