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Plumber

For more information about this trade, contact the training co-ordinator.

What does a Plumber do?

Plumbers plan, install, maintain, inspect and repair plumbing systems, fixtures, equipment and controls in residential and commercial buildings.

Although plumbing is called one of the "piping trades", it can be highly specialized. Some plumbers may install piping systems in new home construction, in commercial, industrial and public buildings, or be experts in retrofitting, repair and maintenance of existing systems.

Residential plumbing is very different from industrial or commercial work. On a typical construction job, plumbers do the "roughing in" after the frame and roof of a new building are in place. They return to the site after the plasterers or drywallers, tilesetters and floor covering installers have completed their work to do the "finishing" work such as installing sinks, tubs and toilets.

At a commercial worksite, plumbers might install restaurant kitchens and dishwashing stations, sewage treatment plants, or a public water system. They might work with hydronic, heating/cooling, natural and liquefied petroleum gas systems or private sewage disposal, pumps and specialty piping.

After completing apprenticeship training, a certified plumber is qualified to:

  • locate and mark the positions for connections and fixtures, then cut the required holes through walls, ceilings and floors
  • select the type and size of pipe required for a project, then measure, cut, shape and join pipes, elbows and joints according to the project specifications
  • thread, bend and clamp pipe and secure piping connections by gluing, soldering, welding, fusing or clamping connections together
  • diagnose and locate leaks, broken or frozen pipes, plugged drains and pipes
  • test for leaks in new and repaired systems with compressed air and/or water
  • clean and thaw drains and pipes with chemicals and power steamers
  • install gauges, thermostats, valves and fittings
  • install, repair and maintain water softeners, garbage disposals, lawn sprinklers, dishwashers and other appliances
  • install water closets, sinks, basins, baths, urinals and bidets
  • install and maintain water purification, water piping and sewage disposal systems

What skills/abilities are required?

If you are mechanically inclined, can pay close attention to detail and are interested in working in a highly specialized trade, consider becoming a plumber. In addition to having good manual dexterity, the ability to translate blueprints and sketches into finished installations is critical. The work is most rewarding to people who enjoy using their specialized skills in a variety of jobsite conditions and working with little supervision.

How long is the apprenticeship program?

The apprenticeship is five years of five levels. Practical and technical training is a minimum of 1800 hours per level. About 80 per cent of the time is spent learning practical on-the-job skills under the supervision of a certified journeyperson and 20 per cent consists of learning the theoretical and technical aspects of the trade through in-school training.

What is taught during in-school technical training?

Note: Gasfitter training to support the domestic gas fitter's licence is now mandatory technical training.

Apprentices attend periods of technical training for each required level of training. Subjects include:

  • Mathematics, Science and Communications related to the trade
  • Sketching and Blueprint Reading
  • Rural Installation
  • Theory and Water Supply
  • Hot and Cold Water Supplies
  • Pipe Hook-ups
  • Safety
  • Gas- levels 1-4 are dedicated to the Plumber curriculum with the first level of Domestic Gasfitter training to support the domestic gas fitter's licence under the Gas and Oil Burner Act.  Level 5 is dedicated to the second level of Domestic Gasfitter training to support the domestic gas fitter's licence under the Gas and Oil Burner Act.

Link to Curriculum Information

What are the entrance requirements?

High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP): Begin your apprenticeship training in high school. A minimum age of 16 years in required.

General Admission: A Grade 12 or equivalent high school academic standing is required including recommended courses in Math. If you do not hold a high school diploma, you can also qualify as an Access Program Trainee (formerly Mature Student). Prior Learning Recognition and Assessment may be required.

Trades Qualification: If you are experienced in the trade, but do not hold a Certificate of Qualification, you may become a certified journeyperson based on years of proven industry experience and successful completion of the Red Seal Examination. A Trades Qualification Application and trade specific work experience form must be submitted. Trades professionals whose entrance readiness is less than that required, must take appropriate upgrading.

For additional details on entrance requirements and how to begin your apprenticeship or obtain certification, see section on "How to Start".

Do I get a certificate?

When you successfully complete all your required levels of practical experience and technical training, you write an interprovincial examination. You must score at least 70 per cent or better to qualify for a “Red Seal” endorsed interprovincial certificate confirming your status as a certified journeyperson.

Your “Red Seal” endorsed Certificate of Qualification as a journeyperson in this trade is recognized throughout Canada.

What salary can I expect as an apprentice?

Regulations under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act establish minimum wage rates for apprentices. Every employer who enters into an apprenticeship agreement with an apprentice must ensure that the apprentice is paid at least the minimum wage rate for that trade.

Apprentices who work for unionized employers are entitled to the wage rate in the collective agreement if it exceeds the pay rates specified in the trade regulation.

Employers may also provide other benefits such as group insurance for health, dental and vision care and training benefits.

Current wage details are available by downloading the training wage schedule.

What are the career prospects?

Construction contractors, plumbing service and repair shops and large commercial, institutional or industrial businesses employ plumbers. Some plumbers are self-employed and others may specialize in plumbing new homes. Others may work primarily in renovation, maintenance and repair. In smaller communities, plumbers generally do a variety of plumbing and plumbing-related jobs including the installation of private sewage disposal systems and potable water distribution systems.

Experienced plumbers usually earn above average incomes in the $40,000 and over/year range. Some may become foremen, superintendents or estimators or work for government as safety code inspectors. With additional training they may transfer their skills to related trades such as Steamfitter/Pipefitter or Sprinkler System Installer.

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