In this month's diary, plumbing student Rhiannon de Wreede tells us how getting in touch with plumbers and getting her name out there is finally paying off.

Plumbing diary: Starting out


Rhiannon de Wreede is taking on a Level 2 plumbing course, having previously worked as a scientist, lecturer and writer. Each month, she’ll let us know how she’s getting on as she juggles going back to college, learning a new trade and being a mum.



I am not your usual plumbing student. There are a few things that make me different, I’m female, over 40 and am educated to PhD level. But no-one really cares about that and you never know where life will take you. I am extremely excited to be starting my journey in to the plumbing world at Petroc College in Barnstaple, North Devon. I used to teach the foundation degree in Human Biosciences and Animal Conservation at the same college so it’s strange returning as a student.


But is it really that different? It’s still a STEM subject and I have always loved the practical side of science… but why plumbing? Well to be honest I was a little tired of always trying to find work and the skills shortage in plumbing was something that has been in the back of my mind since I had my second child. At the end of the day, people need plumbers and there aren’t enough. So, I decided I could fill a gap.


Many people asked me why not electrical training, but I just don’t feel the same interest towards it. People can survive without electricity, but they can’t without water. I did find it interesting that people thought of plumbing as the ‘lesser’ skill, I want to help dispel this as a concept. I want to be a great plumber.


Obviously, you need to start at the beginning and the Level 2 Diploma is perfect. I’m itching to get my hands on the soldering equipment and the pipe cutters. After my interview we discussed work experience, and although for this course it isn’t necessary I have already stalked many of the local numbers and have been fortunate enough to do a few days shadowing them. The toilet fixings were fun, the showers a challenge but the most interesting by far was the boiler.


As yet I haven’t decided how I can do my Level 3 heating quals. Being 40 I feel I haven’t got the same amount of time as a younger plumber, and I want to get on with it.


As a woman new to trade I have generally been encouraged. Most people have shared my enthusiasm and many have volunteered ideas to help. The sparse comments of “it’s a young man’s trade,” and “it’ll kill your knees” have made me more focused and determined… and I bought gel knee pads.


When I qualify, I want to provide excellent plumbing services with a view to providing more ecologically-friendly solutions to heating and plumbing. I consider the environment and its preservation the main issue our generation faces.


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