Plumbers install, service and repair water supplies, as well as sanitation and waste disposal systems. They may also work with heating systems. In parts of the UK, there is currently a severe shortage of qualified plumbers. This has meant the trade has become more lucrative, with self employed tradesmen charging up to £90 per hour. Starting salaries of newly qualified plumbers range from £17,000 to £21,000. Becoming a qualified plumber commonly takes at least 2-3 years of training, although a myriad of shorter, more intensive, privately run courses have cropped up to meet new demand.
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Locate an approved college course near you with available places. Many local colleges offer plumbing courses, however there is strong competition for places. Some colleges may require you to undergo an aptitude test to gain entry. Note that from September 2010 to become a qualified plumber you need to achieve either the City & Guilds (6189) NVQ Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating, at levels 2 and 3, or the EAL NVQ Diploma in Domestic Heating and Plumbing at levels 2 and 3. These replace the City & Guilds (6129) Technical Certificate and the NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering Services -- Plumbing (City and Guilds 6089). These take at least 2-3 years of part-time college study to complete.
Research privately-run courses. These are more expensive than college courses however if you can't get a place on a college course, they may be your only option. Privately-run courses are shorter and more intensive and some have home-study options. Contact your local City & Guilds office with the name of any course you plan to take, to ensure that it is industry-recognised and will provide you with the necessary qualifications to gain employment.
Contact plumbing firms to enquire about apprenticeships. Industry bodies such as The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering recommend you begin employment or a work placement as soon as possible after commencing your college training. This allows you to complete the practical units of the NVQ qualifications. Your college may be able to help you find a placement but it's advisable to be pro-active and contact firms yourself.
Get on an apprenticeship scheme. This is another way of becoming a qualified plumber. How many apprenticeships are available in your area will depend on the local jobs market. Visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk for more information.
Tips and warnings
- If you think you may have trouble paying for a course investigate government grants or apply for a career development loan.
- You may not be able to complete some courses if colour blind, due to health and safety regulations.
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