What does a typical working day involve?
While a 7.30am start is mandatory for the job, the rest of the day is hardly as routine. "I'm attracted to plumbing because of the variety it offers," says Peter. "I can work outdoors in the suburbs one day and be indoors in the city the next. Plus there's such a big range of tasks you can do. It's like building a Meccano set. You just have to fit the right pieces together."
The trade of plumbing revolves around installing and repairing pipes and fixtures for water, gas or sewage in a home or building. On top of these jobs, plumbers can maintain water systems and evaluate and repair spouting. With further qualifications, they can also fit gas systems and roofing. Having accomplished several of these tasks in the space of a day, Peter finishes work at about 3.30 pm though is often called by emergencies to work later.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"Hard work," says Peter. "A lot of first year apprentices can be discouraged by the amount of work you do, but it gets better. There are third year apprentices working on city building sites who earn more than me so it's worth it if you stick with it." Peter also believes in the importance of people skills, especially when operating your own small business. A good rapport with people can often result in an increased number of return customers and the word-of-mouth feedback also helps to reduce advertising costs.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
Once a person passes the age of six the joy of digging a hole quickly dissolves into a series of pained grunts and muffled expletives. "Digging is hard work," Peter agrees, "there's no real way around it and that's the one part of the job that I dislike." Luckily machines now do many of the really unpleasant jobs like unblocking toilets. "If you know what you're doing, things like that are easy."
In fact plumbing as an industry has improved dramatically since Peter first entered 22 years ago. "The times are gone when bosses would expect calluses on your hands by the second day at work and where only sissies wore ear muffs." Safety is a priority and support is available through the Plumbing Industry Commission, the organisation responsible for licensing plumbers in Victoria.
Are there any tips for getting a job as a plumber?
Because plumbing is a licensed trade, budding plumbers must complete an apprenticeship involving both on-the-job training as well as schooling. Peter suggests taking a small business course as well. "Even if you don't want to go out on your own, a small business course will give you an idea of the things involved and allow you to make a better informed decision on the direction you want to take your plumbing. It's a big field with heaps of opportunities."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).