The idea of finding a ‘Job for Life’ is a rather outmoded concept these days. Not only is job security less of a certainty, many of us actually enjoy the potential freedom and challenges that a range of roles over the course of a career may bring.

If this is the case, then it makes sense to start out with an occupation that gives you a sturdy basis and plenty of opportunity to grow. Think of a tree with firm roots and branches reaching out in different directions.

A career in the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) sector is interesting and varied and if you’re a new entrant or school/college leaver looking for an entry point, training as a plumber is a great way to start out – it’s the foundation of almost aspects of this industry, from gas installation to renewables.

There are various training options. 

Traineeships and Apprenticeships

For school leavers and those aged up to 24 with GCSEs or A Levels, a traineeship is a good starting point. You won’t have to pay for your training and you’ll also be given a work experience placement which will help you gain skills and prepare you to go on and find an apprenticeship. There’s more information on traineeships, here.

Alternatively, you might want to look straight away for an apprenticeship. As an apprentice you work for up to four years alongside a qualified plumber, with the equivalent of one day a week in the classroom – you will also earn a small wage. To find out more, click here. Apprenticeships are open to any age group, so don’t be put off if you’re a more ‘mature’ learner.

An NVQ Level 2 Diploma is the minimum qualification required to trade as a plumber. If you want to go further and really set yourself up for a more varied career, you can move on to an Advanced Apprenticeship to gain the NVQ Level 3. 

Level 3 Diploma learners work with electricity, oil-fired appliances and solar thermal hot water systems before choosing a sector in which to specialise. If you were to choose gas-related units at Level 3, on successful completion of the course, you can then register with Gas Safe to fit and install gas appliances, including central and hot water heating systems. 

Successful candidates are able to register with one of the professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPHE), Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), the Council of Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) or Fair Trades Plumbers’ Association. 

You can also complete plumbing Diplomas in dedicated colleges or training centres without becoming an apprentice. 

Future career opportunities

As your career develops, there’s plenty of scope for further change. You may decide to set up on your own, or specialise in a specific area. 

Renewables is an exciting and growing industry, and you can feel good about contributing to a greener future. Apart from solar thermal, plumbing also provides the perfect grounding for heat pumps and biomass – qualified plumbers can choose shorter (cheaper), upskilling courses for heat-based renewables. 

New build properties, for example, will stop using fossil-fuel based heating by 2025, so giving yourself the basis to move into low carbon technologies makes good business sense.

If you’d rather carry on working in plumbing, you could move into the commercial sector, become a designer, a consultant, a manager or even a teacher and have the satisfaction of passing on your skills to learners, just like you.

Plumbing’s the perfect start to any number of exciting careers!

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