11 In their own words
My Career Path
1. How did you get started in this job?
I've been a plumber's apprentice for 14 years! Right now I'm just a few months away from receiving my ticket because I realized that though I'd always be able to get work as an apprentice, a ticket will give me more options. I started plumbing because on the island I lived on, nobody else wanted to do it and so I tried my hand at it. It came naturally and I was in demand.
2. If you knew then what you know now about the job, would you have done anything differently?
I would probably have gotten my ticket sooner and started my own business. I've been lucky to work for people who recognize what I'm doing and give me the freedom to go out and do it. I've also been lucky in that I've not had to deal with the dark side of plumbing, fixing broken sewers. If you can specialize in that, more power to you. You'll never want for work.
3. What would you say to someone starting out in this career today?
Work with someone who's willing to teach you as you work. You'll sometimes run into people who say, "you do it this way because you do it this way." I suggest you find someone who explains things a bit better.
4. Where do you see yourself going with this job in the future?
I'm a mobile sort so, strangely enough, when I get my ticket I'll probably stop working as a plumber and do something else! I'll use the skills I've learned, though, and that means having my own business for sure.
5. What are some of the main forces of change in the industry right now? How will those affect you?
Plumbers do more and more jobs in residential construction. We do a lot of in-floor heating, and those who have the additional certificates do fire safety stuff. One of the main things I do is the installation and maintenance of water supply systems for small subdivisions. That's a lot of pipe and pumps!
A typical workday
||I have two jobs here today. One is a deluxe residence that I've been working on for three weeks. It has seven bathrooms and in-floor heating, as well as Jacuzzis and pools. This house has miles of piping. If I sold the owner just the pipe alone I'd be a wealthy man.
||Before that is my first job. Epoxy the third coat on the inside of one of the water storage tanks for the subdivision. Epoxy creates a smooth, impervious lining on the inside of drinking water tanks. It resists algae and is very easy to clean. Epoxy is a precise process and it needs to cure slightly before application.
||I'm in the tank, wearing my suit and mask, and the site safety guy is keeping a watch over the entrance to the tank. In one series of motions, I apply the epoxy with a roller and leave without marking the surface.
||Back to the house. Today I'm tying in the piping to a central mixing and flow control box for part of the radiant heating system. It's complicated and will take all afternoon and all day tomorrow.
||Some of the pipes can be pressure tested now but I prefer to do that at the end of each stage. I need to set up the electrical hydraulic switches that are linked to the heating controls. I'll get help from the heating guy who sorts out the zones and calibrates everything to ensure a warm air flow.
||The heating guy must be tied up somewhere so I try to figure out what I need in order to be able to test my work. It takes me an afternoon of detailed technical reading but by the end of the day I feel as though I'm getting somewhere.
||I am quite aware of burnout so I leave when the rest of the crew leaves at 4:00 pm. Must stay in top shape for this demanding profession!