Thinking of becoming a plumber?

21 June 2019 Kingspan Water & Energy

Here are the essential things you need to know about apprenticeships in the UK

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If you’re looking for a practical step straight into the workforce with an eye for future earnings as you gain qualifications and experience, a plumbing apprenticeship could be just the ticket! Read on for the Kingspan quick guide to becoming an apprentice plumber.
What is a plumbing apprenticeship?
In short, a plumbing apprenticeship is made up of experience on the job and college learning. You’ll learn about installing and maintaining plumbing systems such as drainage, hot and cold water and central heating systems in homes and commercial buildings. You’ll usually be assessed through a mix of exams, practical work done in college and work you’ve done on site for your employer.
What types of plumbing apprenticeships are there?
You won’t be stuck for choice, as there are five different kinds of plumbing apprenticeships in England! Here they are:

  • Level 2, where you work towards an NVQ Diploma in Plumbing and heating over two years
  • Level 3 in one of these three areas:
    • Oil fired, solid fuel or environmental
    • Gas-fired warm air appliances
    • Gas-fired water and central heating
  • A four-year Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician programme, where you can register as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) once you’ve passed.
If you live in Scotland, Wales or Ireland, you’ll need to check which apprenticeships are available in your area. For example, in Scotland, there’s an SCQF Level 7 Domestic Plumbing and Heating.
When choosing the right course for you it’s always worth checking out the course content and look for one that will provide you with both the skills you need in today’s plumbing industry but also the skills you’ll need in the future. With new build homes going gas-free in 2025, courses that have extras like G3 Unvented training, or a module on electrical training or F-Gas will help ensure that you are up to speed on both heat pumps and direct cylinders.
How do I get on a plumbing apprenticeship?
You’ll need two things – a course and a job. With a job, your employer should fund your course. Some courses can help you find the job!
Find a course
You can find plumbing training providers using good old google, or through some of the trade association and college websites like BPEC  (UK wide), UCAS (England and Wales), Skills Development Scotland, SNIPEF (Scotland) or nidirect in Northern Ireland.
Find a job
Contact local plumbing firms direct, search social media and generally be proactive in your job search. A useful website is this government apprenticeship checker, where you can register for text alerts of new apprenticeship vacancies.
If you can’t find a plumbing apprenticeship, you could do a Level 2 and 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating which could help you gain skills to put you in a stronger position when applying for an apprenticeship. You’ll usually need:
  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a Level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a Level 3 course

How much will I get paid as a plumbing apprentice?
You’ll earn at least £3.90 an hour if you’re younger than 19 or if you’re aged 19 or older but in the first year of your apprenticeship. Many apprentices earn more than this. Once you’re 19 or over and in the second year or later you’ll be entitled to the Minimum Wage.
Once you’re qualified, you can expect around £15,000 a year; rising to £25,000 with a few more years’ experience. If you’ve got gas qualifications, expect to earn more.
What else do I need to think about?
When you’re considering a plumbing apprenticeship, don’t forget the practicalities, such as how much time it’ll take you to travel to college and your job; and if you’re taking public transport, does it run early or late enough to cover your classes / early starts?
We hope this quick guide answers some of your questions about plumbing apprenticeships and gives you practical first steps to take! Best of luck!