How To Become a Plumber
By the end of of this article you should have an understanding of how to approach small plumbing companies with a view to gaining experience with them or, better still, employment.
There are already a lot of career articles available on the internet for people who want to get into plumbing, but we thought it might be helpful for would-be plumbers to hear our small company take on the matter.
It goes without saying that each country has its own set of qualifications. In the UK the basic plumbing skill set is covered by NVQ’s; levels 2 and 3. You can pick up some good advice from the relevant UK government agency here (opens in a separate window).
Young people, fresh out of school (and older people too), often begin by taking themselves off to technical college to learn the principles and attain the qualifications mentioned above.
This is a perfectly good start, but for many this is done in the hope that a job will become available somewhere further down the line; as opposed to being in possession of one from the start.
In the case of the directors at Safesure, Richard Robinson got his start in his father’s company, RSR Plumbing And Heating, whilst Tom Gallimore also started at the same company. How did Tom get to join Richard’s dad’s company? Good fortune, actually. His mother worked with Richard’s mother and Tom’s mum discovered in casual conversation that RSR were looking for a trainee. A happy coincidence, which Tom was able to capitalise on.
Prior to getting a trial at RSR Tom tried his luck with a large, national company. He did well in the first interview and was short-listed for a second one, but guess what? There were 500 other applicants and at the time Tom was younger and less far into his college training than most of the others. Close, but no cigar.
All of this was several years ago and getting into a firm as a trainee tradesman has probably got harder since then, not easier.
So, how can you get a foothold, when competition is tough and when there are not that many new jobs being created?
See It From The Firm’s Point Of View
There is one type of employee that all firms and all managers within firms absolutely love. Exactly what type is that?
Answer: Employees that makes their problems go away. The more completely the better.
Let’s see how that applies to SafeSure Plumbing and Heating’s current situation, as an example.
We are a small company, only formed in 2015 and already we are starting to build impetus; showing signs of being offered more work that we can handle. We have not reached that point yet, but we can see it coming.
We have two options. We can turn work down and stay as we are, or we can start growing as a company. Meaning that we will have to take somebody on. Then after a while, if all goes swimmingly, yet another. How should we go about solving our upcoming staffing problem.
There are pros and cons to taking on an experienced plumber versus a trainee.
The skilled tradesman should be self-reliant; capable of getting himself to jobs, already formally qualified, able to work to a high standard and be in possession of good customer facing skills.
The newbie probably has none of these qualities.
The trainee on the other hand will be initially cheaper than the experienced tradesmen and if he is recently out of college, or still at college, he should have fewer work related vices. That is, an apprentice or trainee ought to be more willing to be told what the expected standards at our company are and to adhere to them without argument. Occasionally old hands are sloppy, think they know it all, or try to cut corners.
These pros and cons will be uppermost in many employers minds when they are deciding which way to go; the experienced, or the inexperienced. Of course, it may be a no-contest, where only experience will do.
How Can You Persuade A Local Firm To Consider You?
It helps a lot if you have passed your driving test. Not because you would ever be sent out on your own, but because you may be able to get yourself to jobs, or be sent off to pick up parts. By the same token, owning a car would be a big help – though if you are not working that may be impossible.
Being genuinely interested in being a plumber, paying attention to what you are taught at college and having a record of some other previous employment also helps a lot. These are things that shine out at interview.
When being interviewed try to sound keen and enthusiastic at all times. Don’t say things like ‘I left my last job because the hours were too long/the bus ride took too long/I didn’t like the boss’. Emphasise the positive.
I once interviewed a seventeen year-old for a gofer type role within a computer service company. The job was helping haul stuff around, but also to begin training in computer networking with a view to moving up to an engineering role when he was ready. What helped a lot on his CV was that he had worked on a Saturday market stall for three years and had to get up at 5 AM to do so.
Question: What did that have to do with computers?
Answer: It was major proof that he could not only stick at things, but also discipline himself. His school qualifications were Ok and he was likeable, so he got the job. Ultimately he became a qualified technician, complete with company car and a good salary.
At RSR Plumbing (Richard’s Dad’s company) they took on a number of trainees over a thirty year period who turned out to lack focus and discipline. This means that time and money spent on teaching them and formally educating them went down the drain and the company had to start again with somebody else. Companies learn to look out for the signs at the interview stage.
If you have no experience of work at all, I would suggest getting some. If you really cannot find a small part-time job, Google ‘volunteering’ in your town. Yes, really!
Lastly, I would suggest writing out a good CV (resume) and have it checked over by someone who is good at preparing them. There in no need to have spelling mistakes and bad grammar in a CV when spell checkers will flush these out for you. A poorly assembled CV smacks of carelessness and a couldn’t care less attitude, which is not what companies are looking for. Then, go to yell.com (or the like) and find all of the plumbers in your town and surrounding area. Note their addresses and send out 25 covering letters and CV’s (initially, just 25) to the local firms. You could even post the nearby ones by hand.
Your brief covering letter should be all about how you can help the plumbing company – how you can start helping to solve their problem. Mention that you are training as a plumber, that you are fit and able to lift heavy things, in possession of a driving license, looking for practical experience (maybe for no pay, initially – in offices they call these arrangements internships these days), have held down small jobs in the past and how you can supply references.
The no pay thing is mostly to stress how keen you are. Not many companies would expect you to do useful work for very long without compensating you.
Lastly tell them that you know that they might not be recruiting at present, but ask to be held on file. Give them your email address and mobile phone number. Consider following up your application with a phone call, or at least an email.
In short, get some of the local firms rooting for you. Anybody can spot somebody who is really trying their hardest and although many companies may be quiet or not ready to expand, there might just be somebody out there waiting to hear from you.
P.S. At the time of writing we have just recruited somebody and are not looking to expand further right now. However, don’t discount what was written above.
2017 Update – Look here to see what that new recruit just did – awesome.