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Starting a career in plumbing?

The summer holidays are coming to an end and a new term will soon be beginning. However, before you can set your sights on that golden apprenticeship, there’s the little matter of GCSE results day on the 25th to get through, but then you can start to really look forward to your new career path. If you have chosen a career in plumbing or heating, what should you expect out of your new industry and the apprenticeship route in general. Here’s a little taste of what’s to come…

1) How long will it take to qualify?
To become a fully qualified plumbing or heating engineer can take up to four years depending on what level you want to qualify at. At present, the first part of the apprenticeship will cover NVQ Level 2 Diploma (Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland), which will give you an entry level qualification, with you progressing on to the Advanced Apprenticeship in order to gain the NVQ Level 3 Diploma. The CIPHE recommends you attain NVQ Level 3 to receive a more rounded education and an additional year of skills and experience.

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.

2) 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.

3) How much does an apprentice earn?
All apprentices must receive the appropriate national minimum wage. At present the rate is £3.30 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.

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

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

5) How do I find out more about a career in plumbing?
Check out the CIPHE’s careers webpages. Or for detailed information on working in the plumbing and heating industry, A Career in Plumbing is available on Amazon – priced £9.99.

Important Note: The new Trailblazer Apprenticeships are set to change the way plumbing and heating apprenticeships work. If you are applying for September 2017 term, keep an eye on the CIPHE website for information on the new Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician Trailblazer Apprenticeship. For more information on Trailblazer Apprenticeships please visit