Written by Eamonn Ryan
Many people imagine that plumbing is a ‘dirty’ or unskilled job. This is a misconception. To be a plumber, you need to possess a number of skills and competencies.
Without plumbing, modern society would probably not exist. The great Albert Einstein, one of the most renowned geniuses in history, is reputed to have said: “If I had my life to live over again, I would be a plumber.”
One of the major advantages of becoming a plumber is that it is a reliable and stead career income earner. Regardless of the economic situation of a country, there will always be a need for plumbers. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many plumbers reported being busier than ever as people began working remotely from home and upgraded their domestic facilities. You are also in control of your own destiny – by working your way up the various plumbing designations – learner plumber, master plumber or director of plumbing – you can advance your career path. You can move up the ranks from a learner plumber to finally join the top two tiers – as a master or director plumber. The option exists of becoming an inspector or a trainer, both career choices being also integral parts of the industry’s future.
Massive scope for growth
There is also the opportunity to specialise in one or other field of plumbing as part of the career path in plumbing.
Generally, plumbers are good at problem-solving, possess the ability to follow technical plans, and understand the significance of health and safety. People skills are also extremely important, as plumbers are not just tradespeople – they are business owners, and employers. Dealing with customers (often unhappy ones if their drain is blocked), municipalities, and various other professionals are required daily. Plumbing is never a drab office job – and as mentioned the opportunity to upskill or study further in the field always exists.
Plumbers do not need to spend three or four years incomeless acquiring a university degree. They earn an income even while on an apprenticeship or learnership, as industry-recognised on-the-job training is absolutely required to become a qualified plumber. A common entry point into the plumbing industry is through an apprenticeship with a PIRB-licensed plumber or plumbing company. During training, you will learn how to install water supplies, find faults, fix domestic appliances, and attend to emergency callouts, among other things.
There are a variety of plumber apprenticeships and courses available in South Africa. It is just a matter of searching for the opportunities in your area.
Once you have joined a plumbing business, you earn while you learn and will therefore not be financially burdened. Not all families have the funds to send their children to university once they matriculate and this makes the plumbing industry the perfect introduction to the working world.
The Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) and the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO) are responsible for evaluating and accrediting all suitable training courses for use by prospective plumbers. You will need to complete CETA- or QCTO-accredited training to become a licensed plumber.
Once you have the required skills, you will be in demand and own the ability to earn a decent wage as a plumber in South Africa.
The best way to start your career is as an assistant or trainee plumber, where you will work alongside an experienced and qualified plumber while servicing residences and businesses. As you gain experience, you will be able to explore opportunities within the industry.
There are many opportunities for plumbers in South Africa. Some plumbers are independent contractors working on a self-employed basis, while others work for companies in the construction industry, as well as for plumbing companies.
Plumbing is not only about working with pipes and taps in bathrooms and kitchens, it has many specialisations that require proper training and certification in that field.
Specialisations can include:
- Training assessors
- Above and below ground drainage
- Rainwater disposal
- Cold or hot water
- Solar, heat pump, or gas
- Water energy
In South Africa, a number of organisations support the plumbing industry and plumbers, such as the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), and the Joint Acceptance Scheme for Water Services Installation Components (JASWIC). All these organisations support and encourage the upliftment of plumbers and the industry as a whole. Being a plumber is not only a rewarding job but one that is recognised as a valuable pillar of society.