Plumbing is a career concerned with the mechanics and maintenance of pipes and water distribution systems. It is one of the most integral and under-appreciated professions in society, one that even astronauts cannot do without as the American astronauts on the International Space Station discovered to their disadvantage during May a few years ago. The amenities plumbers provide in sanitation and clean drinking water are essential parts of modern day life, so much so that people today cannot do without them if they wish to avoid diseases like cholera.
Plumbing itself is a very technical trade and plumbers are expected to have intricate knowledge into how they address problems with their customers and supervisors. This includes having intimate industrial knowledge like how to prepare and study drawings of specifications for the layout of plumbing systems in different types of building designs.
Plumbers manage a large number of building materials other than pipes in their everyday tasks. These include materials like gas meters and metal roofing. Replacement and service of these materials require more specific skills than most plumbers may be equipped with. Specialised plumbing jobs of this nature include:
Drainers – A drainer repairs and maintains drainage, sewerage and water systems.
Roofing plumbers – Roofing plumbers fix and install metal roofs, gutters and downpipes.
Irrigation installers – These types of plumbers plan, design and install watering systems for large environments like parks and golf courses.
Other specialised plumbing fields include heating and ventilation plumbers who install temperature regulation systems, sprinkler fitters who install and maintain fire protection systems and gas fitters who install, test and maintain gas lines and regulators.
Pursuing a career in plumbing requires undergoing a length of strenuous training and tests, the starting point of which is an apprenticeship. Trainees need to have at least completed grade nine in order to be eligible for an apprenticeship while general workers are required to have had a certain level of practical experience. Trainees are then required to gain employment at a registered plumbing contractor, provided that the aforementioned criteria are met. The contractor is considered the responsible party with regards to the apprenticeship agreement.
During this stage, apprentices would be required to pass 46 training modules at a CETA (Construction Education and Training Authority) accredited training college. They would also be tasked with job shadowing responsibilities under the supervision of a qualified plumber from their employer over a period of two years.
The cost of apprenticeship plumber training is approximately R16 000. Apprentices are responsible for paying their own fees while trainees in learnerships receive free training. After completing their 2-year apprenticeship and having passed their training modules at the training college, apprentices then have to report to the Department of Labour to take a plumbing test at a Government trade test centre.
Depending on the type of work provided by their employers, newly qualified plumbers can earn between R5 000 and R 10 000 per month while self-employed plumbers can earn R20 000 or more.
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