Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Plumbing & Heating Industry

I have been in the plumbing and heating industry for 30 years now, I started straight from school at 16 and attended college for 4 years to learn my trade, when I completed my apprenticeship I worked for many different companies as a sub-contractor gaining experience in all the different fields in this industry, domestic and commercial installing plumbing and heating, using copper, iron, and plastics, I also worked on underground drainage, water mains, installed plant rooms, sanitary ware, guttering, installed large boilers that we built on site, I worked on domestic new builds and refurbishments, hotels, schools hospitals etc., I also attended many manufacturers training in these years, I done this for about 10 years, before I finally started my own business, now I don't think I am the only one who done this, many installers from that time did exactly the same, but NOW, it seems people are doing 6 week courses, then starting up their own business as soon as they finish the training and it appears they are actively encouraged to do this, you cannot learn the plumbing and heating industry and be unleashed onto the public in such a short time in my opinion, this is why our industry is getting a bad name, we need to go back to how the system used to be, what people see as progress and moving with the times is not always best, sometimes we had things right many years ago and the so called progress actually sets us back.
During my early years after you were qualified you went about your business installing plumbing and heating, whether that was sub-contracting or on the cards, or self-employed, you carried out your work, paid your bills and paid your taxes, there was no MCS, or Gas Safe, BPEC solar courses, BPEC Heat pump courses, Water Regulation training, and competent person schemes and all these other schemes that exist today, all in the name of improving standards, but in my opinion standards have dropped, not improved, also all these bodies we are forced to join and pay lots of money to allow us to work, do not benefit us, they just line the pockets of others, when I first went self-employed, I just went about my business, using my knowledge gained from 4 years at college and 10 years in the field carrying out installations, what I earned was my own and I lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle, but now, I have to pay out thousands of pounds a year, just to allow me to work, do these costs allow me to earn more money and have plenty of work, NO, in fact I would say that my standard of living has dropped from my early days as self-employed and now we have MCS that we are encouraged to Join, WHY? there are no grants to give to customers to warrant belonging to this scheme, yet they still expect you to pay them, but we are not getting a return on our money, there is no work because there is no RHI to encourage the uptake of renewables, the only reason to join the scheme was to allow you to offer the grants made available from the Government, well there are no grants, so can installers have their money back, and before anyone brings up the RHPP, for thermal solar this is only £300.00, I could knock that off the bill if it would increase my workload, I had high hopes when I joined this industry, I wanted to have a relatively large business and employ a few people, I did start to go this way, but over the years as more and more red tape and bureaucracy  has come in I had to drop my plans, I am now seriously considering leaving the industry as many others are, when you look in the papers for job adverts for plumbers some of the money that is been offered is a disgrace, you could earn the same working at McDonalds, I saw an advert yesterday for a plumber working for a council offering £12,000 per year, I believe the industry is losing good quality tradesmen, who should be used to pass their knowledge and experience on to the next generation, but that knowledge will now be lost, for some reasons plumbers are undervalued in the UK, I believe programs such as Rogue Traders has damaged the industries reputation, all in the name of entertainment, but I do not think it shows a fair reflection of our industry, maybe the public will learn to regret this, when hygiene standards start to drop due to poorly installed plumbing and drainage systems, water and sanitation are essential for life, but people seem to ignore this and just want the cheapest of the cheap, 2012 have we progressed, I don't think so     

Christopher Flaherty EngTech MCIPHE