Career Q & A
Curious about a career in the p-h-c industry? Want to know more about this exciting, reputable and rewarding profession? Get some basic questions answered here!
Why should I learn a skilled trade?
What skill should it be?
Will I find the work interesting?
What is the demand and job security for workers like me?
How long will it take me to make a good income? Will I be able to provide for a family on my salary?
How reputable is this career choice?
What are my chances for advancement?
How safe are the working conditions?
Can I become an employer myself?
What if I change my mind?
What special abilities should I have?
How do I get started?
How long does a typical training period take?
Can I get any help paying for my training/education?
What will I learn in apprenticeship school?
How important is the p-h-c industry to my community?
In terms of pay, steady work and being happy at a job, the worker with a skill has the advantage over the one without a skill. Knowing a skilled trade, whether or not you stick to it throughout life, often means the difference between confidence and uncertainty, self-reliance and dependency. The unskilled person is easily replaced. His lower earnings and lesser satisfaction from his job reflect his unskilled status.
The p-h-c industry is a very large industry employing more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Plumbing, heating, and cooling make it possible for people of the world to live in any climate and within highly confined areas without danger to health and comfort. An ample supply of pure water is necessary for any community. Proper installation of systems to handle the water supply and protect it from contamination is the responsibility of the plumbing industry. The heating and cooling industries are equally important because proper environmental control must be maintained to ensure public health.
P-h-c work requires a combination of mechanical aptitude and the ability to solve engineering problems by careful thought and creativeness. There is enough variety in industry jobs to satisfy the interest of almost anyone. If you have intelligence and a desire to build things, you are almost sure to find the p-h-c industry as source of satisfaction and success.
If you are ambitious and apply yourself, you will be welcomed into the industry. Once properly trained and highly skilled, you will be in demand. For a considerable number of years, plumbing and related pipe work has been increasing in importance in many types of building construction. This trend is most certain to continue. Future advancement is encouraged by active development of new products and techniques initiated by joint efforts of the industry.
This is a prime time to enter the p-h-c industry. With millions of Baby Boomers retiring, there is a huge shortage of skilled workers to fill the positions, creating a wealth of opportunity for those entering the field. Keep in mind, the p-h-c industry cannot be replaced, and these types of jobs can’t be outsourced! While technology certainly is advancing this field, it can never replace the need for installation, replacement and repair of plumbing and HVACR systems.
It will take approximately four years for a person to attain a journeyman’s position, that is, a position that enables one to take the full responsibility of a skilled craftsman. And, a good education definitely pays off. An August 2012 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that contractors who participate in a registered apprentice program typically earn almost a quarter-million dollars more than nonparticipants over the course of their careers. Read a summary of these findings or read the report:
Plumber, Pipefitter and Steamfitter Employment, Wage Information
Again, with the current shortage in supply of skilled workers in the plumbing and HVACR fields, the demand (and the salary!) is going up. Most qualified workers are finding that they can provide quite comfortably for their families. Of course – with the rapid advancements in technology – workers familiar with computers and electronics will have the best job opportunities, as employers continue to struggle to find qualified technicians to work on complex systems.
Not only are workers in the p-h-c industry in high demand, but they are becoming increasingly respected as technology is requiring enhanced knowledge and skills. More importantly, workers are facing more demand by customers to consider not only health and safety issues but environmental ones when installing or repairing plumbing and HVACR systems. They highly value those workers who take that responsibility seriously.
You literally can become part of a solution – installing and repairing new technologies and products that meet the latest requirements, keeping homeowners and business-owners comfortable, and suggesting ways that save energy!
Your chances for advancement in the industry are determined, of course, by the growth of the industry, the contractor you are working for, and your individual intelligence, skill, and ambition. All foremen and most superintendents in the industry have come up through the ranks, and you have an excellent opportunity if you apply yourself to move into one of these supervisory or executive spots at some time in your career. Or (and this is characteristic of the industry), you can move into positions involving estimating, sales, design, safety, technology, or project management. You may even go into business for yourself.
Since the conception of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, prevention of accidents has taken top priority in general construction. Naturally, the p-h-c industry has expended a vast amount of time, money, and effort in order to train employees in the proper safety and health techniques. The p-h-c industry is concerned about worker safety and productivity. Logically, an employee whose health and safety are assured on the job is certain to be more productive.
The p-h-c industry is composed of many small shops as well as larger ones owned and operated by men and women who came up from the ranks through apprenticeship. In many states and municipalities, it is necessary for a journeyman plumber to pass a master plumber examination before entering the business as a contractor. After you have worked as a journeyman and applied yourself in learning a craft, you will have a solid background for the master’s examination.
Almost everyone who enters the p-h-c industry stays with it. Those who leave go into maintenance or other phases of the construction industry or into the manufacturing side of the trade. There is always considerable demand by manufacturers and wholesale distributors for employees with a good technical background.
Plumbing, heating and cooling is somewhat of a custom industry. No two jobs are exactly alike, and employees must have good judgment: both intelligence and the ability to adapt to new conditions or unusual situations as they occur. The industry needs workers who have an interest and the ability to master physical science and who are skillful at using their hands. Physical requirements for the work include average strength and coordination, as well as general good health.
Plumbing and pipefitting are creative work. When you have become a skilled craftsman and are handed a set of architectural drawings, you must be able to lay out the job and determine that it will perform the best service and, at the same time, conform to state and municipal ordinances.
If you are presently enrolled in high school, it is recommended that you complete your high school education. This educational experience will help you become a well-rounded individual, and you will find dealing with people somewhat easier. You may find it helpful, though, to emphasize certain courses of study in your junior and senior years. These courses are algebra, plane geometry, chemistry, and, of course, English and speech.
We suggest that you contact local contractors for more detailed information about the trade in your specific geographic location. Talk with as many people in the contracting trade as possible. The more information you obtain, the better equipped you will be to form realistic plans for your career. P-h-c contractors are listed in the Yellow Pages. You may also find more information from your local Board of Education or your State Department of Labor.
During your apprenticeship period, in addition to on-the-job training, you will spend part of your time in the classroom. All classroom work deals with subjects needed to learn the trade. Included are: mathematics applicable to pipe work; physics with emphasis on liquids and gases; elements of hydraulics and heat; mechanical drawing; and plumbing theory. Theory instruction includes materials, sanitation, elements of bacteriology, and piping systems. These classroom courses, in conjunction with supervised on-the-job instruction, help to ensure the highest possible caliber mechanics for the p-h-c industry.
In today’s society, p-h-c has taken on a new dimension. The industry has become part of every home, place of business, factory, and school. There are constant demands not only for new systems but for maintenance of older ones. The future is bright for the p-h-c industry because the need for proper water and waste facilities and environmental systems grows daily. These facilities and systems must be maintained to ensure public health and to maintain high standards of living.
Examine the p-h-c business. Talk with local contractors. Do it for the good of your future. Do it for the good of your community. Do it for the good of America.