By Eamonn Ryan
In the past, there were a number of ways of qualifying as a plumber, and no uniformity as to the educational standard. That a plumber can do his job is something that nobody can take away from him, and all those routes are recognised by the PIRB. The PIRB’s trade test is an independent verification that a plumber performs work according to standards (or abides by the law).
Herman Strass, PIRB compliance manager, explains: “The man in the street cannot be expected to tell one plumber from another or what his qualification is. PIRB verifies this on the consumer’s behalf. The plumber can still work even without PIRB’s verification, he is only excluded from work where the customer demands a PIRB licensed plumber.”
In addition, explains IOPSA technical manager Steve van Zyl, through the RPL programme many people who have no qualification at all but can do many plumbing tasks, are being mentored to join the official plumbing industry. The process is therefore highly inclusive as opposed to being exclusive.
“By tying everything together, the PIRB provides the industry with a roadmap for all individuals to acquire an officially-recognised qualification, as well as specialising in the newer forms of plumbing work such as solar water heaters or heat pumps, providing sources of continuing professional development which keeps plumbers abreast of new developments, or even to acquire the higher status of a master plumber.”
In the highly-paced world today, in any profession the basic qualification is simply the starting block. “The world is increasingly specialising, and plumbers are discovering they need more than just the basic qualification if they want to perform work which will be more and more in demand as technology continues to evolve into grey water harvesting and water efficient devices,” says Van Zyl.
“The average plumber, if he wants to have a business in the future, is going to have to learn the emerging technologies, and this is difficult to do on his own. These are high value-add tasks for which the consumer will want to know the plumber is qualified to install. The average plumber may think he can do a solar installation, but our experience in compliance auditing suggests that it is a specialist activity that the typical plumber cannot do without specific training,” says Strauss.