Gareth Harris is Water Industry Approved Plumbers Scheme Manager at WRAS (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme). He explains why you’ve chosen a great career with plenty of options.
So, you’ve decided on a career in the plumbing and heating sector, a wise choice if you ask me! It also offers the potential to go down different routes and forge a successful career in different areas too.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but take it from me, work hard in college and ask as many questions as you can when you are on site – not just from your fellow plumbers but from the other trades as well. “Every day is a school day” is my favourite saying, and if someone is willing to share with you their knowledge, take it! You don’t get much for free these days!
Depending on what path you choose to take with your NVQ, you will have different options to consider – it could be gas, oil, renewable energies or even bathroom fitting. Whichever route you choose, I would suggest sticking to it, so you become good at it. Specialising in one area will make you an expert; and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with offering a broader range of services, don’t forget there will be much more to keep up to date with if you do!
Also make sure you understand some of the basic legal requirements that will apply to your chosen area of work. Think of it as a bit like learning the highway code before you learn to drive – there is no point in having a driving licence if you don’t understand what the road signs mean. So make sure you are aware of and understand your legal obligations under Water Regulations/Byelaws and Building Regulations.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, go on extra courses – whether it is a product-specific manufacturer course, a Water Regulations course, or even a higher-level qualification such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND). These will all broaden your knowledge and understanding of the industry and may lead to different career routes in the future.
Staying on the tools for all of your working life is not mandatory. The higher the level of qualification you gain, the more opportunities will become available to you. Being young and getting the chance to work away from home is great, a few beers every night with the lads. But as you get older (I’m sounding like my father now) you will not want to be away so much. The novelty of crawling around lofts and under suspended floors will wear off, and you may want to look at other options.
You could consider being a design engineer, a sales rep or consultant. And all of the experience and knowledge you gain on site will stand you in good stead should one of these opportunities arise.
Good customer service is something that will not be taught as part of your NVQ. But remember the basics – be courteous, listen to the customer’s needs and always give them the opportunity to ask questions – they have asked you there because you’re the expert. Share a bit of knowledge and explain what you are doing so they understand – every day is a school day remember!
Good luck with your career, and hopefully one day soon we will see your name on the WaterSafe Register, the national register for approved plumbers.