Advice for would-be apprentice plumber

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by cd, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. cd

    cd New Member

    Jan 30, 2013
    Winnipeg, MB
    Hi everyone, great site, really impressed with the knowledge you guys have. This website came up every time I googled anything to do with plumbing so I've been reading articles for about a week or so but this is my first post.

    I'm 22 years old, sick of working at my current job (call center supervisor). I'm good with my hands (father was a mechanic, I spent a lot of time at his shop messing around with various tools and things, no stranger to getting dirty). I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) and there's a fairly substantial demand for skilled tradespeople across the country. The local college (Red River College) offers a 5 month certification program with apprenticeship opportunities (not trying to advertise: this is the page on the course they offer: ) , with books and so on it costs about $3600.

    I'm really looking for advice from guys who've been doing it for a long time. I realize my inexperience is not a good thing (some guys who've worked with/for their dads since they were kids have been basically brought in this world) but I really want a career which will give me skills which are always going to be in demand (people are always going to need water flowing in their homes and go #1/#2 right?) Basically I'm willing to work hard to learn the trade, but don't know much about it. I want to provide for my family by having stable, skilled long term employment. What's the best way to get started? What should I avoid doing, what should I be doing, what are things/bad habits I should watch out for, etc. I've been thinking about this for a long time and I wont lie, part of what attracts me is the money: working overtime to install pipe at a new commercial property, maybe retrofitting the plumbing on a reserve for the government, that kind of thing, but I know after this course I'd be starting out on the bottom of the totem pole anywhere I go I'm not in it to rip people off or do hack work, just to work hard and make an honest living. Later on in life I'd like to start my own company or become a building inspector for the government.

    Can someone help me out? Tell me how you got started, what can I do right now to broaden my knowledge base so that when I take this course I'm not just some johnny-come-lately with his thumb in his behind. Any and all advice, stories, information etc is definitely appreciated, from anyone.
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Aug 17, 2004
    Bothell, Washington

    I can't say much about taking a class and then finding employment in construction. Maybe soneone else here has some information on that. There are a lot of construction managemet jobs that require schooling.
    I got into plumbing because of the money. Guys I knew were making three times more than what I had topped out at working in bicycle shops. It was mechanical work, but without the pay. I knew some people from church, and while I was getting my hair cut, I mentioned it to the wife of a guy that owned a large shop. Even though I had been a mechanic for eight years, they wouldn't let me use tools. They had me working in the warehouse and picking up supplies for the "mechanics". After six months I bugged them enough that they put me on a construction crew and handed me a shovel and a pick.
    After eighteen months of that, I was put with the bosses younger brother. He had access to the job reports and could see that jobs that I worked on came in on time and without problems. I worked with him for eight months. During that time, he let me know that it was because of him that they hadn't started me off as a plumber. He thought the part of town I had come from was too "nice" and I wouldn't know which side of a shovel to hold onto. He didn't know that our favorite past time growing up was moving dirt with shovels and building forts. Later I was "his" boss.
    It was mainly new construction, and layout seemed easy to me. I was plumbing five homes a week with an apprentice and a helper. Later I switched to mult-family and commercial. I've worked union and non-union. The largest shop was the first one. One hundrend and fifty on the plumbing side and the same amount on the electrical side. When that went bust in the early 80's, ten of us started a commerical shop, calling ourselves Phoenix Mechanical. Rising from the ashes of Crown Custom Plumbing. Later Careco,
    Loyal Mechanical/Pioneer Plumbing and McDonald Plumbing. Slid in the middle of that was my developer stage, building homes. But you have to start somewhere, somehow. If you like installing and fixing things, it hardly seems like work.

    I do think that it's easier to start with a large company that is doing construction. There are more places they can put you with supervision. A small shop needs everyone to be up to speed pretty quickly.
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